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According to The Washington Post, there are around 1.7 million rear-end collisions yearly in the U.S. While some rear-end crashes occur at high speeds, most don't. The ones that occur at relatively low speeds are often referred to as "fender benders," and many people aren't quite sure how to legally handle them when they occur.
The reason for this uncertainty is simple: fender benders may cause only minor vehicular damage and minor injuries—or none at all. However, all fender benders are different, and some, even those that happen at very low speeds, can cause significant damage and painful injuries.
If you're involved in a fender bender, here are a few factors to consider if you're wondering if you should file an injury claim against the at-fault driver.
Ohio law requires drivers to report crashes to police if they result in injuries, death, or property damage of more than $1,000. As a rule of thumb, you should assume that any visible damage to a vehicle beyond scratches or paint damage is more than $1,000, and that means even fender benders that result in small bumper dents should be reported to the police.
It’s also important to note that some vehicle damage may not be visible, such as damage to the frame or undercarriage. Additionally, some injuries may not be visible or noticed right away. For example, you may only begin to experience neck pain when you wake up the following morning after the crash, or even several days later.
Remember that the police may not be dispatched to a minor fender bender with no injuries even if it otherwise meets the qualifications for reporting a crash. In this case, you must still report the crash on your own time. Your local sheriff’s office or police department website will likely have the form you must complete to officially report the crash.
Because fender benders are often seen as minor incidents, it’s common for drivers—especially those who cause them—to try to persuade the drivers they hit to forget about them and go their separate ways. However, even if you’re unsure if you want to file a claim, you should still get the other driver’s name, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and auto insurance information.
First, you may need this information when reporting the crash to authorities, especially if police aren’t dispatched to the crash scene. Second, you will need the info if you file an injury claim later. Without it, it may be challenging to track down the at-fault driver, limiting your options for compensation.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in the crash, you should immediately get medical attention. Then, you should consider filing an injury claim against the other driver. If you don’t file an injury claim, you’re responsible for paying for your medical bills, and your health insurance may not cover all of your crash-related healthcare costs.
When receiving medical attention, ask your doctor or the other healthcare professional treating you about the severity of your injuries, how long they’re expected to last, and whether they will affect your ability to work. You may not have a claim if your injuries are minor (such as scrapes, bruises, or transient pain). But if your injuries are moderate or severe, including damage to your head, neck, or spine, you may have a valid claim, especially if they prevent you from working.
Assess the extent of the damage to your vehicle. If it’s just a minor scratch or dent, and the cost of repairs is minimal, you may choose not to file a claim. However, if there is significant damage or if the vehicle is not drivable, you should consider filing an insurance claim.
In Ohio, drivers are legally required to carry liability insurance to cover property damage they cause to other people. However, drivers aren't required to carry collision coverage that will cover the cost of repairing their own vehicles if they're involved in crashes that were their fault. Even if you have collision coverage, it's better to file a claim against the other driver's insurance if they were even potentially only partially at fault, as that can help prevent your insurance premium from increasing.
"Fender bender" is a catch-all phrase for many rear-end collisions and low-speed head-on collisions, but some fender benders have serious consequences for drivers and passengers. Even when they collide at low speeds, two vehicles crashing into each other still results in close to or more than 10,000 pounds of mass colliding.
At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we've helped victims of high-speed crashes, low-speed fender benders, and all crashes in between get the compensation they're owed. We want to hear from you if you or a loved one were hurt in a fender bender. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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