Fender Benders: How To Handle Insurance

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A fender bender accident is usually a low-speed car accident that involves damages to your or the other driver’s fender. While fender bender damages are relatively minor, you should still file a car insurance claim because you or the other driver may not realize the full extent of the damages and injuries at the collision scene.

Keep reading to learn what to do when you’re involved in a fender bender.

What Is A Fender Bender?

A fender bender is a minor and low-speed car accident that typically involves two cars and dents or bends in the car’s fender. Single-car accidents, such as backing into a fence or garage, can be considered fender benders, too. Since fender bender accidents typically occur at low speeds, damages are usually minor.

Note: Fenders are the exterior panels that house the vehicle’s front and rear wheels.

After a fender bender, check for injuries, document the accident, exchange information, get witnesses' contact information and file a car insurance claim.

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How To Report and File a Fender Bender Claim

After getting involved in a fender bender, take a deep breath. Next, follow the steps below to check for injuries, document the accident and file a car insurance claim.

  1. Check for injuries: Confirm if all drivers are okay and if medical attention is needed. If somebody is injured, alert the authorities immediately. If the damages are minor and nobody suffered injuries, some drivers refrain from notifying a police officer.
  2. Safely pull over to the side of the road: If the fender bender occurred while driving on a street, activate your hazard lights and safely pull over to avoid further collisions with other vehicles.
  3. Exchange information with the other driver: Get the other driver’s full name, phone number, car insurance provider and policy number.
  4. Document the accident scene: Take note of the date, time and the other car’s license plate number. Gather testimonies and contact information from present witnesses. Also, take pictures of the scene, damages (to both cars) and injuries sustained during the fender bender accident.
  5. Don’t admit fault: Determining fault is the insurance company’s job and admitting full responsibility can work against you down the road — it may turn out that both parties were at-fault for the car accident (e.g., you backed into a parked car but that car was illegally parked).
  6. Contact your insurance company: Your insurance carrier will walk you through on next steps for filing a claim. They will request documentation you gathered, including a copy of the policy report if you notified the local authorities. In some states, you need to call the police if your damages or injuries exceed a certain dollar amount.
  7. Obtain an estimate: Your insurer may send an insurance adjuster to assess your repair costs or may require you to get an estimate from an approved repair facility.
  8. Complete your repairs: Your insurance carrier may provide you with a list of approved repair shops or you can choose your own. Depending on who was at fault for the accident, the other driver’s liability insurance or your collision coverage (deductible applies) will pay for your repair bills.

Why Do Fender Benders Happen?

Fender benders occur because of distracted or negligent driving. Some common scenarios that can lead to a fender bender may include:

  • A driver suddenly brakes, leaving less time and distance for the driver behind to safely stop.
  • A driver backs out of a parking space and hits a moving or parked car with their vehicle.
  • A distracted driver has compromised reaction-time, resulting in hitting the car in front or getting rear-ended.
  • A driver doesn’t completely stop and rear-ends the car in front of them.

A fender bender is a minor and low-speed car accident that results in dents or bends in the car’s fender.

Are There Ways To Prevent a Fender Bender From Happening?

The following tips may help you avoid a fender bender (and subsequent premium hikes after filing an insurance claim).

  • Complete a defensive driving course to refresh your knowledge on safe driving techniques (and potentially earn a defensive driving discount with your auto insurer).
  • Turn off phone notifications or set your phone to driving mode.
  • Avoid driving in unfavorable weather conditions that can obstruct vision (e.g., rain, fog, nighttime).
  • Minimize driving while distracted (e.g., texting, eating, blasting the music).
  • Pay close attention to the vehicle in front of you.
  • Keep two cars distance between you and the driver in front of you.
  • Avoid abrupt braking to prevent car crashes to your car’s front and rear-end.
  • Pay attention to your blind spots, especially when backing out of a parking spot.
  • Back up slowly.
  • Avoid crowded parking lots, if possible, or park away from traffic-heavy areas (such as nearest the store entrance) if you feel it is safe to do so.
  • Rely on assisted-driving features (if available), such as anti-collision warnings and lane change assistance.

Legal requirements to report an accident to the police will vary by state.

Beware of Fender-Bender Fraud

Not all drivers in a fender bender accident will file an insurance claim with good intent. Some may lie or misrepresent the truth to profit from the claim payout.

For example, the other driver in a car accident may attempt to overstate their injuries or losses in an attempt to secure a higher settlement from your insurance company. Or, the other driver may attempt to claim you were responsible for scratches to her car that existed before the accident.

A police report that contradicts the other party’s claims can be a useful defense in court. Video and photo evidence can help protect you from malicious claims filed against you by other drivers. Consider installing a dash cam that provides video proof of what actually happened. Also, take multiple photos of all damages following the accident from every angle. Gathering witness testimonies and their phone numbers can also help build your case if the other driver takes you to court, too.

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Will my insurance cover damage caused in a fender bender?

If you were at fault, your damages in a fender bender accident are covered if you have collision coverage or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If the other driver is liable but has no or insufficient coverage, you’re covered too. If the other driver was at fault, their liability insurance should pay for your damages.

Do you need to file a claim after a minor car accident?

You should notify your car insurance company even for minor accidents because severe injuries or damages may go unnoticed until later. Don’t wait until your insurance company learns about an accident from the other driver filing a claim against you.

What determines whether or not a wreck is considered a fender bender?

Many minor car accidents are fender benders and typically occur when two vehicles collide — usually at low speeds — causing dents or bending in the car’s front or rear fender.

Do you need to call law enforcement if you’re involved in a fender bender?

Legal requirements to report an accident to the police will vary by state. For example, California drivers must report an accident to the DMV within 10 days if property damage bills or medical costs exceed $1,000.

Key Takeaways

  • A fender bender is a minor accident that usually happens at low speeds with relatively minimal vehicle damage.
  • Drivers should still file an insurance claim after a fender bender even if the losses were minor because major damages and serious injuries may escape your notice at the collision scene.
  • Fender benders typically occur when one or more drivers are driving distracted or recklessly, such as braking abruptly.

Do you have a fender bender in your driving history? Car accidents — whether you’re at fault or not — will often result in higher insurance premiums. If you’re facing higher rates, use SmartFinancial’s FREE online comparison tool to get matched with an auto insurance policy that meets your coverage needs and budget. Just enter your zip code below or call 855.214.2291 to receive your auto insurance quotes.

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