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Minor Accident Car Insurance Claims

One of the main reasons many drivers purchase car insurance (aside from the legal requirements bidding them to do so) is the protection a good policy can give you in the aftermath of an accident. When you are involved in a crash involving another vehicle, it is especially important to have the protection of a solid auto policy. Even minor car accidents can have a major financial impact if you are not prepared ahead of time and ready to deal with them. Even though many crashes are very minor, quite a few of these small accidents still require filing a claim. Understanding and following the process for filing a claim following such an accident can help prevent a minor fender bender from turning into a major headache for those involved.

Many Crashes are Very Minor

Many of us purchase our liability auto policies and our collision and medical payments insurance with the thought in mind that these policies will save us from financial trouble in the event of a major accident. This is certainly true, and having a good policy with generous limits of protection can come in handy when a major accident strikes.

But in reality, not every accident would be classified as a major one. Not every accident results in serious injuries to any of the involved parties. In fact, a large percentage of auto accidents would probably be termed minor by claims adjusters working on the cases, based on severity of property damage and the presence or absence of injury. Many crashes are very minor in nature, and oftentimes when we are involved in accidents like this we end up talking to the other party about whether it is even worthwhile to file a claim.

In some cases, it quite simply is not. A good example is some variation of the following occurrence, which is common enough that it probably sounds familiar to a lot of readers. At a four-stop, the driver behind you runs into you, or the driver ahead of you rolls back into you, causing very minor damage to both vehicles. In the vast majority of cases, no one gets hurt in these small accidents, and most of the time neither driver feels all that compelled to file a claim. Often the driver who caused the accident (if a clear guilty party can be determined) offers to pay for the damages to the other driver's car out of pocket.

If this has ever happened to you, chances are you exchanged phone numbers, went and got an estimate, called the other driver, and maybe met them at the collision shop to collect a check. Then both of you went on with your lives. Ideally, this would be the way that all minor car accidents ended, but unfortunately, it is not always so simple. In some cases, the damage is sever enough or the disagreement regarding fault contentious enough to warrant opening a claim and probably also getting law enforcement involved to survey the accident scene and possibly issue a ticket.

Claims Guidelines for Small Accidents

If you are involved in a minor accident that is still major enough to warrant calling the police and opening a claim, there are some things you should know to ensure that you make the right moves in the early going of the claims process, to keep the claim moving swiftly forward. The first thing you want to do is let the other driver know that you are calling the police, and make sure they understand that both of you need to wait for law enforcement to arrive so they can take a look at the accident scene and at the damage.

It is important to remember, however, that a police officer will typically come to a conclusion regarding fault in the matter, and may even issue a citation to the negligent driver in the accident. If you believe you were probably to blame for the accident, it may be best to try to keep the police out of the situation if the damage is very minor. However, if you feel like you need your insurance company involved, it's best to talk to the police right away.

Stay Safe on Accident Scene

While you are waiting for the police officer to arrive, make sure both vehicles get moved to a safe place off the roadway so you will not impede traffic. Also make sure you are safe from the other driver. If you feel threatened in any way, stay in your car with the doors locked and simply wait for the police to arrive. You are not under any obligation to continue talking to the other driver if you feel threatened by anger or aggressive behavior. In the meantime, keep your cool and do not egg on the other driver with your own attitude. Do not try to place the blame on them. This is not the time for an argument.

After you have contacted law enforcement, get on the phone with your auto insurance provider and report the accident. It is never too early to open a claim. In fact, the sooner you do so, the better, because your insurer will want to send someone out to get their own assessment of the scene and interpretation of blame in the accident.

Once the police arrive, take as much time as they need to answer all their questions the best you can, giving them all the details you can remember in reconstructing the accident. But do not admit blame, even if you think the accident was your fault. This is not the time for that, either. Admitting blame without cause to do so will weaken your position as the claim gets rolling.

If at all possible, keep at least a disposable camera in the glove compartment of your vehicle for use at times like this. If you have a camera of some kind, take pictures of the scene and of your car. This data can help your adjuster to do their job in trying to determine how to proceed with the claim. Of particular importance are things like skid marks and physical evidence. If the road is snowy, you especially need to take pictures so that you have photographic representation before the snow melts away.

If the other driver wants to exchange information, do so cautiously. Do not exchange personal information like your home address. Also, do not talk to the other driver's insurance company unless you have to. And never talk to them without first consulting your own claims adjuster, who will be working to reduce your liability, and if possible, prove that the other driver was at fault in the accident.

A fair amount of common sense and restraint are both necessary in the aftermath of any car accident. It may sound cynical to say that you can't trust anybody. Suffice it to say that you have to do everything you can to look out for your own interest. Work closely with your adjuster, who will be doing everything possible to make the best of the situation on your behalf. Your interest and that of your insurer will be one and the same.

 

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