In 2022, over 150,000 car crashes in California caused over 226,000 injuries. While some of these were serious accidents, many of them were minor crashes. Even small fender benders can cause significant financial and emotional burdens.
Do You Need to Report a Minor Car Accident?
Some people wonder whether reporting the incident is necessary, especially if it seems small.
California law requires reporting accidents if:
- there is at least $1,000 of property damage,
- injury, or
Why Report a Minor Crash?
Even if you don’t need to file a report, it’s best to notify law enforcement of any accident. Doing so ensures an official record of the incident, which can be invaluable for insurance claims and legal proceedings. Minor accidents can still lead to disputes, and having an official report can protect your interests in case of hidden injuries or questions of liability.
The Best Steps to Take in a Minor Car Accident
You might not think about the legal process after a fender bender, especially if it doesn’t lead to extensive damages or injuries. That said, you want to take the right steps in case the unexpected occurs.
Get to Safety
Once possible, try to move the vehicles out of traffic and turn on the hazard lights. Even after doing this, get far away from the road to avoid other cars. This simple yet critical step helps prevent further accidents and ensures the well-being of everyone at the scene.
Report the accident to law enforcement once you are safe. The operator will dispatch police officers and an ambulance if you have injuries. Report accidents to law enforcement also creates a crash report, which will be useful evidence.
Speak with all parties in the crash and exchange information. Collect names, phone numbers, and insurance details. This will help with your insurance claim process.
Be polite but not apologetic or angry. Ensure everyone is safe, but do not take responsibility for the accident or place blame on anyone else. You will have a chance to tell your side of the story later.
Gather Witness Information
Collect the names and contact details of anyone who saw the accident. Their accounts can help determine who is liable. Also, encourage witnesses to stay at the scene until law enforcement arrives. The police can speak with them and include their statements in the official report.
Document the Scene
Take photographs of vehicle damage, the accident scene, and road signs or signals. These records provide tangible evidence for insurance claims and legal proceedings. Make detailed notes about other factors, such as weather conditions or road hazards.
Report to Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurer to notify them of the accident. They may ask for details, including the date, time, location, and parties. Share essential details about damages to your vehicle and any injuries you have. Prompt reporting demonstrates good faith and can lead to a faster claim payout.
Visit a Doctor
Getting medical care is one of the most important steps to take in a minor car accident.
First, many injuries are not visible after an accident, and some take a few days to appear. It’s important to get a thorough evaluation to find any potential injuries.
Second, visiting a doctor gives you medical records to share with your insurer and attorney. These records can show a clear link between the accident and your damages.
Meet with an Attorney
A personal injury attorney can assist you when dealing with a minor car accident. They can assess the details of your case, helping you understand the potential strengths and challenges.
Moreover, an attorney can handle communications with insurance companies, ensuring that your statements are accurate and not used against you. They possess the skills to negotiate fair settlements and, if necessary, can take your case to court on your behalf.
What to Expect After Filing an Insurance Claim
Filing an insurance claim will help you receive compensation. Here’s what may happen after doing so:
- Acknowledgment and assessment. Immediately after filing, your insurance company will acknowledge receipt of your claim. Prepare for an initial assessment where the insurer gauges the basic details and circumstances of the accident.
- Claim assignment and investigation. The insurer assigns a claims adjuster to your case to evaluate damages and determine liability. Expect a thorough investigation involving statements from involved parties, examination of police reports, and collection of relevant documentation.
- Communication. Stay informed as your claims adjuster communicates updates and requests additional information. Be proactive in responding to any queries from the insurance company.
- Negotiation and settlement discussions. Prepare for negotiation discussions where your claims adjuster will propose a settlement. You have the right to negotiate and should know the factors that influence the final settlement amount.
- Prepare to wait. Understand that the claims process can vary in duration, influenced by the complexity of the case and any unforeseen complications. Patience is crucial, but you can inquire about expected timelines to manage your expectations.
- Potential litigation. If you can reach an agreement, legal involvement may become necessary. Your attorney will help with this process to ensure you get fair treatment.
- Resolution and closure. Once negotiations conclude, the insurance company will issue a settlement check. This closes your case.
Your process may look different based on the facts of your case. Speak with your attorney to get specific guidance on what to expect.
Damages You Can Recover After a Minor Car Accident
No matter how small you think the accident was, you can still seek compensation for costs and injuries.
Damages you can recover include:
- Medical expenses. These cover the costs of treating injuries sustained in the accident.
- Property damage. You can recover the repair or replacement costs if your car is damaged.
- Lost wages. Injuries can prevent you from working, so you can get reimbursement for lost income.
- Pain and suffering. Accidents can lead to physical and emotional distress, and compensation can help increase your quality of life.
It can be hard to put a dollar figure on these damages. An attorney will help with this process and use evidence and spreadsheets to calculate the total value of your claim.
Schedule a Consultation with the Frederick Law Firm
You aren’t alone after a car accident. The Frederick Law Firm can guide you on the steps to take in a minor car accident. Our lawyers will help file your insurance claim, review evidence, and fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve.