Whether you get backed into a parking lot or bumped at a stop light because another driver isn’t paying attention, fender-bender accidents are a common occurrence. Fortunately, many victims of these minor accidents aren’t injured and get away with only cosmetic damage to their beloved vehicles.
But what should you do if you’re in a fender bender? Are you obligated to report minor accidents? This blog post explains fender bender laws and what you should do if you’re in a fender bender or other minor car accident.
Fender-Bender Accidents and the Law
According to South Carolina law, if you’re in a minor car accident and no parties are physically hurt, and there’s only slight damage to the vehicles, you don’t need to call the police.
However, just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report a minor accident. We’ll explain why in a moment.
If your fender bender causes more severe damage that looks like it’ll be expensive to fix, you should contact the police so they can file a report. South Carolina law states that you must report accidents resulting in damage of $1,000 or more to law enforcement.
You should also call the police if you’re injured — even if you feel fine or don’t want to cause a fuss. This can be vital if you later intend to claim compensation.
Calling the Police
While you don’t legally need to call the police if you’re in a fender-bender accident that doesn’t cause significant damage, it can still be worthwhile.
When you report your crash to the police, a responding officer will evaluate the scene and create a document called a police report. This report will detail what happened and the damage sustained and note any contributing factors — such as driving while fatigued or intoxicated — to determine who is at fault. The police will also verify all parties involved have the required paperwork to show they can legally drive and issue citations if relevant.
As such, it can be a valuable piece of evidence if you want to recover your costs from the other driver’s insurer.
Let’s say you’re in a minor crash that wasn’t your fault. You could claim off your insurance, but it’s your legal right to recover it from the other party — this is why liability insurance exists. It also allows you to avoid paying the deductible on your policy.
In other cases, what you initially think is a quick fix turns out to be a much bigger — and more expensive — job. If you called 911 initially, the police report could be key to helping you recover the full cost.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
If events lead to you suing the other driver involved in the collision, you’ll be glad to have called the police to report it. But you might wonder how a minor accident like a fender bender could lead to a car accident compensation claim.
Even if you initially think you’re not injured, you may later find that’s not the case.
Sudden surges of adrenaline after an auto accident are the body’s response to danger, and that adrenaline can mask injuries for some time. It’s also common to be confused, disoriented, or in shock after a car accident, so injuries can go unnoticed and bad decisions can be too easily made.
You may feel fine initially after an accident, but your injuries could worsen, leading you to need time off work or even surgery.
If you are injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you’re entitled to recover these costs in a car accident claim. This covers your expenses for immediate treatment — such as tests, surgery, and appointments — and transport to and from the hospital and future medical costs you may incur.
But to do so, evidence is crucial. Without proof of your injuries and when they occurred, the other party may argue you weren’t injured during the crash. If the police weren’t called to the scene, that only supports their argument that the collision wasn’t severe enough to cause your injuries.
By calling 911, you protect yourself. Sometimes, the attending officer may call medical assistance. If they don’t, you should seek medical attention so you can document your injuries.
Reporting the Accident to Your Insurance Company
Unlike reporting to the police, reporting your fender bender accident to your insurance company is another matter. No matter how severe your accident is, you should always inform your insurance company as soon as possible — ideally within 24 hours of the accident occurring.
You must also report your accident to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you call the police after a minor accident, the officer may give you an insurance verification form called an FR-10. This will need to be completed by your insurance company and the insurers of any other parties involved in the accident. If you didn’t call the police, or if the officer didn’t provide one, you can request one.
Time is of the essence here, as you need to return the form within 15 days of your accident.
Many people avoid informing their insurance companies of accidents because they fear their insurance premiums will go up. But failing to report the accident can lead to higher premiums in the future. If you miss the 15-day deadline for filing your FR-10, you could even have your license suspended.
Calling a Personal Injury Lawyer
Regardless of the severity of your accident and whether or not you’re injured, it’s worth speaking to a personal injury lawyer.
You may be entitled to significant compensation, especially if your injuries are more severe than you originally thought.
Our experienced car accident lawyers in Greenville, South Carolina, will determine the facts of your minor accident and whether you have a good case for compensation.
If you have a case, we can gather evidence to prove the other party is responsible and negotiate with insurance companies to secure a fair settlement.
Even a fender bender accident can have a major impact, from emotional trauma to medical and car repair costs. To find out if you can recover your expenses, schedule a free, no-obligation case review with our personal injury lawyers in South Carolina.