Fender benders happen. Even the safest drivers in the country are occasionally rear-ended, and none of us are beyond an occasional mistake. When you’re in a major motor accident, most people know to call 911, and with experts on the scene, a good course of action usually follows. In a minor accident, you have to weigh the necessity of involving officials with saving time and convenience — especially when no one seems hurt. For your own protection, there are best practices you should follow in any collision. They will help prevent injury and protect you from the unscrupulous characters who might try to manipulate the situation to their financial advantage.
Stop the Car
Even in the mildest of fender benders, you should stop the car immediately. Your first priority is checking for injuries. Collisions under five mph can still cause unexpected head, spine, neck, and joint trauma. Take a deep breath and check yourself for signs of problems. Then, attend to your passengers. If anyone is hurt, call 911 immediately. If everyone seems OK, then you can move on to the next step.
Secure the Scene
If someone is hurt, keeping the car where it is is usually the safest course of action. You will often be blocking traffic, but it diverts cars around injured persons and reduces the chance of exacerbating an injury. If everyone is fine, then you should consider moving out of traffic. Before you do so, check on the driver and passengers of the other car. If they are fine, snag a few quick pictures of the state of the cars and then pull to safety.
Trade Info and Document the Incident
Everyone’s fine, so now it’s time to check the cars. If you do nothing else, make sure you get contact, insurance, and vehicle information from the other driver. The DMV has a nice checklist of all the important information. You should also take extensive photos of any damage and write down notes pertaining to the accident and anything else that seems useful. If there is an insurance claim, photos are among your best friends.
Make Phone Calls
In non-emergency cases, the first call should usually be to your insurance company. Their experience and expertise will help you make calm decisions and avoid any mistakes that might prevent you from thoroughly resolving the situation. This call should be done before you and the other driver part ways. The insurance company can help you decide if it is necessary to file a police report or contact the DMV.
If you have any doubt, it is always better to have a police report than not, and the official 911 website lists all collisions as adequate reason to call emergency services. In the state of Texas, official reports are legally required if there is any injury or damage that could exceed $1000. A lot of fender benders might seem like they won’t cause much damage, but costs can be unexpected and surprising.
After you’ve made the checklist, you can get back to your day and consider repairs if they are needed.