Steps to Take After a Minor Car Accident | Car Accident Checklist

A fender bender can seem like no big deal at the moment. But without taking the proper steps afterward, you could end up footing repair bills or getting denied injury claims down the road. Don’t jeopardize your rights over a seemingly small accident.

In this guide, our personal injury attorneys will walk you through what to do following a minor collision to protect yourself legally and financially.

With a lawyer’s help, you may get compensated for medical bills, lost wages, vehicle damage, and other costs. Don’t assume a minor wreck is insignificant. Handling it strategically from the start can make a real difference. Here are the steps to take after a minor car accident:

1. Stop and Exchange Information

Once you’ve come to a complete stop after the car accident, the first thing to do is make sure you and your passengers are unharmed. Then, make sure that all people and vehicles are safe. Then, get full contact and insurance details in writing from the other driver.

You’ll want their:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance company name and policy number

If there are any witnesses, obtain their contact information too. All of this documentation will provide crucial evidence if you need to file a claim later on.

2. Contact the Authorities

If there are any serious injuries that require immediate medical care, call 911.

Except for very minor collisions without damage or injury, you should always report an accident to the police. Call the local police department or ask a witness to make the call. An officer will come to the scene to file an official report, which can be invaluable if you later make an injury or insurance claim.

In Washington, you must contact law enforcement after any accident that caused over $1,000 in property damage or resulted in injury or death. But even for wrecks below that threshold, having an official report is in your best interest. Insurance companies may be highly skeptical of claims without a police report to back them up.

3. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company

You should also inform your insurance provider immediately that you’ve been in an accident. Provide the basic details and let them know you’ll submit any necessary paperwork or documents soon. Getting in touch with your insurer quickly starts the claims process rolling. Remember, never admit fault for the accident or provide a statement before consulting with an attorney. This could prevent you from seeking fair compensation in the future.

4. Seek Medical Attention

Keep in mind that adrenaline can mask injuries after an accident. You may not even realize you’ve been hurt until much later. It’s always best to immediately seek medical care for any soreness, pain, or other symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment will strengthen an injury claim.

5. Take Photos of the Accident Scene

Don’t forget to document the accident scene with photos. Capture the following:

  • Damage to your vehicle
  • Damage to the other vehicle(s) involved
  • License plates of all vehicles
  • Road conditions and any skid marks
  • Traffic signs or signals near the accident site
  • Any visible injuries sustained by you or others
  • The overall accident scene from multiple angles

These images can serve as valuable evidence when filing an insurance claim or if fault is disputed.

6. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney

Contacting a personal injury lawyer after any auto accident, no matter how trivial it seems, is a smart move. An attorney experienced with car insurance claims may be able to recover compensation for you even if the damage looks minor at first glance.

They can also advise you on the best course of action to protect your rights. A lawyer’s unique skills and resources give them advantages over dealing directly with insurers yourself, including:

  • Handling negotiations – Attorneys have leverage to secure better settlements from insurers.
  • Proving negligence – Lawyers can establish the other motorist’s liability through accident reconstruction, subpoenas, and other means.
  • Determining full damages – Attorneys account for all current and future costs related to injuries, lost income, etc.
  • Trial experience – An attorney’s willingness to prosecute gives them greater bargaining power during settlement talks.

Consulting an auto accident lawyer for a free case review costs you nothing but could make the difference in getting fairly compensated. Don’t leave money on the table.

7. Decide Whether to File a Personal Injury Claim

If injuries or vehicle damage from the accident are minimal, you may opt to pay out-of-pocket rather than make an insurance claim. But on the other hand, you shouldn’t have to foot the bill or deal with increased insurance premiums for an accident that wasn’t your fault.

An experienced attorney can provide guidance on whether to file a claim against the negligent driver’s insurer. They can also negotiate skillfully on your behalf to maximize compensation and minimize premium increases.

Don’t Assume It’s Just a Fender-Bender

Even accidents with seemingly minor damage, like scuffed bumpers or small dents, should be handled carefully. Be sure to take preventative legal steps like contacting the police, documenting the scene, retaining an attorney, and deciding on insurance claims.

What appears insignificant at first glance could end up having serious legal and financial consequences down the road. Protect yourself by being proactive.

If you or a loved one were recently involved in an auto accident in Washington, the car accident attorneys at Hess Injury Law are here to help. Contact us online today for your free consultation.

Our team has extensive experience getting accident victims properly compensated. Let us review your case at no cost and advise you on the best path forward. Don’t leave compensation on the table – you could recover more than you realize.

Author Bio

Peter J. Hess grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. He is a 1996 graduate of Walla Walla High School and a 2000 graduate of the University of Washington, with a B.A. in Business Administration/Information Systems.

Peter graduated from Willamette University College of Law, with honors, in 2007. While at Willamette, he was an Associate Editor of the Willamette Law Review, he was a Teacher’s Assistant for a Legal Research and Writing professor, and he worked as a Personal Injury Law Clerk at Swanson, Lathen, Alexander & McCann in Salem, Oregon. After graduation from Willamette, Peter began working here at Hess Injury Law. In 2012, he became a partner in the firm. He is licensed to practice law in both Washington and Oregon.

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