Car accidents, even seemingly minor ones, are never fun. Between making car insurance claims and ensuring your car is OK, a fender bender is certainly an inconvenience. And, unfortunately, it may not be over after you drive away!
Despite it being minor, a fender bender can cause major headaches if not dealt with properly. Below we’ll go into full detail regarding what a fender bender is and what to do in a fender bender scenario.
What is a fender bender?
A fender bender is considered a minor accident between two vehicles. What constitutes as ‘minor,’ can be debated, but typically incidents like getting rear-ended at low speeds, bumped by a distracted driver, or perhaps lightly tapping into a car while parking could be classified as a fender bender.
Fender-benders can also damage other electrical components, including airbag deployment, your car’s head, tail and brake lights, and battery connectivity. If you’ve recently been in a fender-bender and your car’s battery is suddenly dead, it’s likely that the battery’s wiring was knocked loose in the collision.
Causes of Fender Benders
Some of the reasons why fender benders occur include:
- A collision happens after a motorist stops suddenly and is rear-ended
- A driver backs out of a parking space and collides with the car behind their vehicle
- A distracted driver inadvertently strikes a moving or parked car
Regardless of the cause of a fender bender, it is crucial to know how to handle this type of accident. That way, all drivers involved can take the necessary steps to manage the accident’s impact.
How to Handle a Fender Bender
There is no standard approach to a fender bender. But, if you approach it in the same way as other types of car accidents, you can move forward from the fender bender as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To reduce your risk of a fender bender, avoid driving distractions, keep a close eye on the road at all times, and park your vehicle in a safe spot. Though, even by minimizing your risk, a fender bender can happen to any driver, at any time.
Fortunately, if you know what to do in a fender bender, you can get through the incident with composure.
Steps To Take After a Fender-Bender
Here are the basic steps to take immediately following a car accident, whether it’s a serious rear-end collision or minor fender-bender:
1. Remain Calm
It can be quite startling when you’ve first unexpectedly been struck by another vehicle. Take a couple of minutes to gather yourself before hastily trying to figure out what to do after a fender bender.
Once you’ve oriented yourself to the situation at hand, check to see if everyone in the vehicle is okay. Especially check to see if there are any mobility issues or back or neck pains. If there are any injuries, contact 911 immediately.
2. Check For Hazards
Your first response may be to get out of the vehicle immediately after a fender bender car accident. However, always check your mirrors and do a quick visual sweep before exiting your vehicle.
Because you may still be disoriented, you may unknowingly enter right into oncoming traffic if you don’t do a thorough check.
If your vehicle is right in the middle of the road and can still run, consider pulling over onto the curb to avoid further collisions. Make sure your hazard lights are turned on and always be aware of any nearby hazards.
3. Notify Police
If the accident was serious and involved major damages, injuries, or deaths, it is required by law to call the police. But even if there were no serious injuries and the accident was relatively minor, notifying the police is a good idea for several reasons:
- They’ll provide you with appropriate next steps.
- They’ll act as a neutral mediator if there is a disagreement between you and the other party.
- They’ll need to control traffic in the area if required.
- They’ll assess any damage to not only your vehicles but any other nearby damage to property, light poles, signs, etc.
The police may decide not to come if the fender bender was minor and there were no injuries or fatalities (also depending on state laws). Nevertheless, err on the side of caution by contacting the police, even if it’s a small fender bender.
4. Obtain Driver Information
Exchange information with the other driver. Information you’ll need to obtain includes:
- Full Name
- Phone number or email
5. Insurance Company Name and Policy Number
While interacting with the other driver, it’s essential to never admit guilt. Even a simple apology can be used against you in the courts. Don’t allow the other driver or witnesses to pressure you into admitting fault.
It’s the job of the police and insurance investigators to determine who’s at fault. If there is any doubt, consult a car accident attorney immediately after the accident for guidance on the appropriate steps to take.
6. Assess For Any Damages and Take Pictures
Take note of any damages that resulted from the fender bender. Not all car damages are immediately noticeable. Look for things such as large dents, leaking fluid, engine sound, smoke, or gasoline smell.
Write down details of the accident, including the geographical location of where the fender bender took place, how it happened (as you recall it) when it took place, and the road conditions.
Take plenty of photos of the damage and the accident scene. Photos can help with your case long after the incident, without relying solely on your memory.
7. Call The Insurance Company
Ideally, your personal injury attorney will report the accident to your insurance company. However, if you decide to call, call your insurance company right after a fender bender.
Since it’s a minor accident, it may be tempting just to skip this step and settle it privately between you and the other driver.
However, follow proper protocol and go through your insurance. You’ll never know what kind of damage or injury may arise after the incident.
When you call your insurance company, they’ll get you started on a fender bender insurance claim. They’ll guide you through the various insurance coverage for fender benders.
Follow their instructions on where to get an estimate done for any damages, which auto shop to use for repairs, and any deductible you might have to pay.
How a Minor Fender Bender Can Cause Serious Damage to Your Car?
Believe it or not, many of the following damages can be the result of a minor fender bender accident.
When a car is properly aligned, it rides smoothly and wears evenly on the tires. Even a minor accident can throw off the car’s alignment, however, causing it to drift in one direction when you’re driving straight and potentially causing damage to tires.
Left unbalanced, a misaligned vehicle can cause tires to wear out and need replacement. They can even cause a blowout when you least expect it, which can be extremely dangerous. Do not underestimate the damage that can be caused by a misaligned car or truck.
Transmission Problems After a Fender Bender
All-wheel or rear-wheel-drive vehicles are particularly susceptible to transmission damage, even in a minor accident. Signs of a damaged transmission include slow acceleration and noisy, clunking sounds when the car shifts gears.
When such damage goes unrepaired, this can actually lead to metal pieces breaking off of the gears, traveling into the cooling system, and possibly causing irreparable damage.
A damaged transmission must be addressed as soon as possible after the incident, as damage will compound over time and can become extremely costly.
Electrical System Failure
The functions of your car that are controlled by the electrical system such as power windows, power locks, the anti-theft system, and others may be easily damaged in a fender bender.
A battery connector could also be affected, causing decreased battery life or unpredictable behavior of the electrical components.
Modern car engines are complex and delicate, and any number of components can be disrupted even by a minor crash.
If the check engine light comes on following a fender bender, it is imperative that you take your car to a mechanic. Your insurance company likely will not cover damage that has worsened by your failure to have it repaired promptly.
Bent Frame After a Minor Accident
Any accident can cause invisible damage to your car’s frame, damage that only your mechanic can assess. Even slight damage to the frame can impede the proper functioning and deployment of your airbag in a crash.
A crooked frame can also prevent your car from absorbing impact in a more serious accident that you may be involved in down the line.
A common problem after an impact from the rear even a small one is damage to the exhaust pipe.
If the pipe becomes misshapen or kinked and the car’s ability to remove toxic fumes is impeded, a number of issues can arise: reduced fuel economy, poisonous fumes entering the cabin of the car, or it may even cause a fire.
Just as hitting a pothole can throw your suspension off, so can the impact of a fender bender. Unlike most of the issues above, you will probably notice right away if your steering is off, as you will need to compensate for the imbalance in the way that you turn and hold the steering wheel.
Rust from Scratches and Dents
Some car owners may be tempted to leave a minor scratch from a fender bender because it’s “only cosmetic.” Unfortunately, that is a choice that could come back to haunt you. Humidity, water, and salt will slowly cause scratches and dents to rust.
Rust spots can travel under the paint, which can eventually eat holes into the body panels and fasteners. It is best to treat dents and scratches as soon as they are sustained in order to preserve the resale value of your vehicle as well as your pride.
How Much Does the Average Car Accident Cost?
This is a hard question to answer. Car accidents can potentially cost drivers large amounts of money, but there are Florida car accidents that do very little damage. A fender bender may cost $100 to fix or $500.
Because the cost is low, many of these accidents go unreported in order to avoid increased insurance premiums. Other accidents are so serious that the cost of human lives and lost opportunity is impossible to calculate.
Believe it or not, below $1,000 is considered to be in the “acceptable” price range to repair a bumper on a midsized sedan, according to 2009 crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In real-life testing, the averages were often higher and could exceed $2,000 for something as commonly found as a Chevy Malibu.
A more recent IIHS study in 2018 found that rear auto-brake technology can stop some common fender-bender collisions before they happen (for example, reversing into a pole). But rear auto-brake is still fairly rare it’s offered as an option in only 5 percent of new cars, and standard in less than 1 percent.
The Cost of Fender Benders
While the damage may appear minor, the cost for repairs can be quite steep in comparison. Expect the estimate to run from around $2500 to $10,000, depending on the circumstances. The cost will depend on how much damage and how many areas are damaged.
A fender bender is typically found around the front or rear bumpers or corner panels. If the two vehicles are of similar size, the damage will probably be less than if a small car and a truck or SUV collide.
If the collision was at the right angle, it may cause damage to the lights and hood, adding to the cost significantly. Underlying damage can raise the cost as well, such as a bent frame or if the impact caused a misalignment.
You could end up with steering or suspension problems, as well as damage to the wheel wells. Even minor impacts can cause problems with electrical systems or the engine.
The Cost of Not Repairing Fender Bender Damage
Some car owners decide not to fix the damage since it doesn’t seem important to the driving condition of the vehicle. There are several reasons this would be a mistake. First, you never know what problems may be hidden even if your car seems to run fine now.
In time, issues may develop, which can be traced back to the accident. If you wait too long, insurance providers may not cover old accidents.
Failing to repair damage from a fender bender means your vehicle has a lower resale value. It no longer qualifies as being in excellent condition. The damage will be deducted from the trade-in or resale value.
If you still have a loan on your vehicle, the lender will probably expect you to have the damage repaired. While fender benders often happen when you’re in a hurry and you don’t want to waste time dealing with something that doesn’t seem too important, you should take the time to follow proper procedure for an accident.
Tips to Prevent a Fender Bender
Defensive driving is key, particularly for those who want to avoid a fender bender. There are several things that you can do to simultaneously practice defensive driving and limit the risk of a fender bender and other types of car accidents, such as:
- Turn off your cell phone while you drive
- Pay attention to traffic signs
- Avoid tailgating and stay a safe distance away from other cars on the road; ideally, you should keep at least a 3-second following distance from all other vehicles
- Drive slowly and cautiously in rain, snow, and other inclement weather conditions
Along with the tips mentioned above, you should get your car checked regularly by a certified auto mechanic. They can identify any of your car’s mechanical problems that could otherwise hamper your ability to drive safely.