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A fender bender is a minor accident that generally causes a small amount of damage to the vehicles involved, but can still become a major issue for the vehicle owners. Insurance agencies often provide coverage for minor damages and injuries, but they may have the right to raise a driver's premiums following the report of even a minor accident. For this reason, drivers may try to settle the cost of damages between themselves, though this is not legal in all areas and is generally not recommended.
Types of Damage
A fender bender is so named because the fenders often receive the bulk of the damage in typical accidents. A driver making a sudden stop at an intersection, for example, may cause another driver to crash into his rear bumper or trunk. Another driver may pull out of a driveway without looking for oncoming traffic, creating a hazard for other drivers. The result could be a low-speed collision on the passenger side. This type of car accident is also likely to occur in large parking lots, as cars look for the best spots or inattentive drivers move in the wrong direction.
What to Do
After a fender bender, assuming that no one got hurt and that the cars aren't blocking traffic, it's best for the people involved to take notes on the appearance of both cars as well as the area where the accident happened. This includes things like the street address, weather conditions, and any traffic signs or speed limit signs. Drivers should take pictures of the damage and position of the vehicles to bolster any future legal claims. It's also very important to trade insurance information with the other driver. If he or she refuses to share insurance information, then take down the vehicle's license plate number and any other information you can determine about the car, and report the incident to the police.
In many places in the US, state laws require those involved in accidents to report it to their insurance company. Generally, this means a police officer must come to the scene of a reported accident and document all that he or she observes of the accident and the drivers involved. While an insurance company may ultimately cover the cost of repairs or medical claims, it will require a lot of detailed information, so drivers should gather as much data as they can at the scene of the accident.
Financial Compensation and Insurance
Sometimes an insurance company will overlook or "forgive" a policy holder's occasional fender bender and not raise his or her future premiums. Parties involved in a minor accident can still work out their differences privately, although financial experts warn against paying too many accident-related damages out-of-pocket. Many drivers involved tend to underestimate the actual cost of repairs or the extent of injuries, and later sue the other driver for more money. Unless the damages are clearly less than an insured driver's deductible, it's best to report the accident to the insurance companies right away. Even if the damages are minor and both parties agree on a private settlement, it's crucial to get some sort of written agreement signed before leaving the scene, just in case other legal issues come up later.
Some drivers involved in a fender bender elect not to make repairs, simply because the damages appear to be mainly cosmetic. As long as the vehicle remains in acceptable mechanical condition, owners are not always obligated to fix minor damages. A number of car experts, however, strongly encourage owners to have dents and dings repaired as soon as possible, since exposed metal is vulnerable to rust damage and loose bumpers or fenders could create other problems in the future.