What to Do After a Minor Car Accident

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Jul 18, 2021

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What You Should Know

  • After getting into a car accident, there’s a protocol you should follow in order to ensure that both drivers remain safe, abide by the law, and jump start the insurance claims program
  • In the case of an accident, you should always notify the police and request that an officer comes to the scene
  • Document everything before leaving the scene

Driving comes with risk. Each year, there are more than 6,000,000 car accidents across the country.1 Fortunately, with the progression of technology and car safety, the vast majority of those incidents end up being relatively minor and limited to property damage. Most of the minor car accidents could end up being classified as a bumper-to-bumper. 

But if you find yourself on the driving or receiving end, do you know what to do after a minor car accident? 

This guide provides actionable steps you can follow to resolve the situation quickly and safely. 

How to Deal with a Minor Car Accident

After getting into a car accident, there’s a protocol you should follow in order to ensure that both drivers remain safe, abide by the law, and jump start the insurance claims program. 

Here’s what you need to know: 

#1 Pull Off to a Safe Spot

You’ve probably seen people get in an accident or a fender bender on the highway and simply just stop in their middle lane to inspect the auto accident. 

Avoid doing this! 

It’s unsafe for both parties, as well as for other drivers on the road. Stopping on the highway not only leads to traffic, but can also cause even worse accidents for unaware drivers who suddenly come upon a stopped vehicle.

Unless it’s a serious accident, you should do everything you can to pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road. So, in the case of a fender-bender, switch on your hazards and get to the right safety lane.  

#2 Remain Calm

Accidents (even small ones) can be frightening. They’ll make your heart pump, blood flow, and adrenaline race as the shock value kicks in. Try to remember—both parties are feeling this way.  

Whether you or the other party is at fault, your first goal should be to resolve the issue peacefully while minimizing confrontation. Neither person wants to deal with the hassle. So, a little empathy goes a long way. 

Do your best to avoid getting angry or immediately resort to finger-pointing. Instead, breathe. By staying calm and controlled, you’ll help resolve the issue and get on your way. 

#3 Check for Injuries

One of your first tasks is to check yourself for immediate injuries. If you’re seriously hurt, don’t move. Instead, call 911 and wait for medical assistance to arrive. 

After you’ve self-assessed, check on your passengers for injury. Similarly, if someone is hurt, request immediate attention from paramedics. Don’t move the passenger. Instead wait for instruction from a medical professional. 

Remember, with many fender-benders, an issue such as a spine or neck injury caused by whiplash may not be felt for a day or two. So, be cautious and move slowly even if you feel fine.  

#4 Whatever You Do—Don’t Flee the Scene! 

Although it should go without saying, one of the most important things you can do when in a minor car accident is to stay in the area. Hundreds of thousands of people still commit a hit and run every year.2  Stay calm and make sure to put your hazard lights on and wait for emergency personnel to arrive to help with vehicle damage and accident victims. 

This leads us to the question: is a hit and run a felony? Depending on the state and the circumstances, even a minor accident could be charged as a felony should you flee the scene without identifying yourself and checking on the other driver to see if they were okay. 

A hit and run in California, for example, is a serious offense. It can carry significant penalties, including:3

  • Misdemeanor penalty 
    • A maximum penalty of less than 6 months imprisonment in county jail
    • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Felony penalty 
    • 16 months to 3 years in state prison for serious property damage
    • A fine between $1,000 to $10,000
    • 2 to 4 years in state prison in cases of death or serious injury 

#5 Call 911 

Wondering what happens if you total a leased car or even have minor damage? Regardless of whether the accident is a significant collision or minor accident, it’s important that you notify the police and request that an officer comes to the scene. And, in several states, you may be legally obligated to follow this step.  

Once the responding officer arrives, they’ll:

  • Provide or call for emergency medical care (if necessary)
  • Protect the accident scene
  • Speak with both parties to investigate what occurred
  • Document the scene and potential causes of the accident
  • Fill out an accident report

This can help prevent an all-too-common insurance issue, where one driver admits fault at the scene but since there’s no one else to witness it, they later tell their insurance company a different story. 

Your insurer may ask for a copy of a police report to help facilitate the claims process. Before the officer leaves, make sure to write down the following information:

  • The officer’s name
  • The officer’s badge number
  • The officer’s phone number
  • The police report number

But what happens if an officer doesn’t show up at the scene? 

You can still visit the nearest police station and complete a report there. That way, there’s an official accounting of the incident. 

#6 Exchange Insurance Information

After you’ve checked for injuries, pulled over safely, and notified the authorities of the accident, you can exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. Ask for their license and proof of insurance to verify later with your own insurance company. 

Ideally, you want to capture the following details:

  • The driver’s full name
  • The driver’s contact information
  • The driver’s insurance company 
  • The driver’s policy number
  • The driver’s license and license plate number
  • Type, color, and model of the driver’s vehicle
  • Location and time of the accident

Don’t discuss fault as you review the incident with the other driver. According to legal experts:4 

“You should never admit fault after a car accident even if it does seem glaringly obvious that it was your fault. If you admit fault, you as well as your insurance company become legally responsible for paying for any damages that resulted from the car accident. While the other driver and their insurance company might try to pressure you into admitting fault, you should always resist the urge to take responsibility for the accident.”

Instead, leave that issue to your insurance adjuster. After you’ve filed a claim, they’ll be the one to determine which party is at-fault according to the vehicle inspection, property damage, crash documentation, and police report. 

#7 Document the Scene

When it comes to legal testimony, eyewitness accounts only have so much bearing, particularly if it’s two parties providing dissimilar, contradictory accounts. Typical car settlement amounts can be up in the thousands so make sure to leave the scene prepared.

Document everything before leaving the scene. This includes:

  • Take pictures of the scene – Photograph your vehicle and the other vehicle from various angles. Clearly show the damage to both cars. Also, take a picture of the license plate. By providing this evidence, you’ll be able to strengthen your report with your insurance company.
  • Identify the officers – As mentioned, ask for all of the responding officers’ names and badge numbers. Also, take a snap of the case report and its number.
  • Speak to witnesses – If there are witnesses, ask for their names and contact information. If they’re willing to testify about what occurred, take a video where they recap what they saw. 

By performing this due diligence, you can streamline the insurance process and ensure that you don’t wind up on the wrong side of the case. 

#8 Contact Your Insurance Company

After you’ve exchanged information with the driver and spoken with the police, you’ll need to file a report with your insurance company. You’re not required to do this on the scene, but it should be done in a timely manner, especially if there will be claims or if participants were injured.

Be sure to include all of the following information:

  • What happened from your perspective
  • The contact and insurance information of the other driver
  • The police report
  • The documentation that you took at the scene

After this initial report is filed, your insurance company will likely contact you for a detailed report that may have follow up questions. Ideally, you should hear from your insurer within 14 days. But if that doesn’t happen, call the company to review.  Make sure you also ask them, how much does insurance go up after a car accident, to ensure you know every financial detail resulting from the accident.

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A Minor Accident Doesn’t Have to Be a Big Deal

Minor car accidents are incredibly common. During your driving career, you could be on both the giving and receiving end of a minor accident. Even though it may be hard in the heat of the moment, remember to stay calm and work through the situation as pragmatically as you can. 

Should an accident occur, get to safety, notify the authorities, and exchange all of the important contact, driving, and insurance information.

Speaking of, do you have auto insurance? 

At Auto Insurance Quote, we can help you compare quotes and find the perfect partner. Whether or not you’re in a minor or serious car accident, we’ve got your back!

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