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What is a Fender Bender?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

Repairing Damage

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.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WikiMotors, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon999398 — On Dec 27, 2017

I was at a stop signal and waiting for cars to move when the light turned green. But the Fedex van behind me came and hit my car before I moved. We pulled over to right lane and inspected the damages. There was a rubber plate in his van which bumped my car, made an impression and a small dent. He offered $100 and wanted to settle without going to insurance. I panicked. We both were late and I settled for it. I have second thoughts now. Will I be paying more money when getting my car to body shop or selling it later?

By anon933933 — On Feb 18, 2014

Recently I let my boyfriend use my car. He was at a stop light to turn left. The left arrow turned green for him to go.

As he was turning, this lady ran a red light and hit my Tahoe. The police came and made a report. The officer stated they were not sure whether the lady had insurance or not. They gave her a ticket for no insurance, and my boyfriend a ticket for no license.

We only have liability so my insurance does not cover the damages. I called my insurance to notify them of the incident. The lady will not answer their phone calls or mine. Actually, the number got disconnected two days later. What do I do? It's about $3,000 in damages according to the police report. And now I can't get a hold of the lady who ran into my car.

By anon276619 — On Jun 25, 2012

I was backing out of a parking space and had a bumper to bumper bump with a parked truck. There was no damage to the truck but I cracked a tail light. Since there was no damage to the other vehicle I left. Can I get in trouble for that? I read that Iowa law says if there was no injury or property damage that I am OK, is this right?

By anon276258 — On Jun 22, 2012

We were in a minor accident in which both of our cars were dented/damaged as a result of a collision and the matter was reported to the Ontario Police. We informed our insurance and at a later stage, and it was mutually settled between us without claiming a single thing from the insurance agency.

Unfortunately, my insurance was raised from $240 to $451 and as per discussions with the insurance company, they are not ready to reduce the amount and denied my request. Today I received letter stating the amount was raised due to the determination of an at-fault claim. Kindly advise me how to reduce this amount please or any other suggestions. I will be grateful. I have meager earnings. --Nancy

By anon161023 — On Mar 17, 2011

I also got involved in an accident in a parking lot on a snowstorm day. The lady at the stop sign had stopped, then accelerated, then suddenly stopped. I was about seven feet from her when i was applying my brakes. My car didn't stop and went right into her bumper. There was no damage to her bumper. My hood was cosmetically damaged. I told her i would pay her some money and get it over with because i don't want to go through insurance.

She calls her husband and then he says go through insurance, then calls me and says he just wants the bumper replaced. He got a quote on the bumper from the toyota shop and I went down to the shop and paid $880, although my deductible was only $500. I didn't want this small minor accident on my record. I called anonymously to my insurance company and asked them how much my premium would be with just this one accident with a clean record he said my premium would be raised by 40 percent.

So on a 2008 bmw m3 paying $325 a month, it would go up to $490 a month. That is an increase of $165 a month and over a 12 month period would cost me more on insurance than to just settle the fender bender out of insurance. Just my situation. --The Friendly Guy.

By anon92605 — On Jun 29, 2010

Unfortunately driving is not a right. It is a privilege.

By anon54552 — On Nov 30, 2009

i'm writing a paper and i was wondering how many fender benders happen in a year on average.

By anon37388 — On Jul 19, 2009

i let my husband drive my rental car and he does not have a license. he was in a minor fender bender and caused no damage to either car nor were the police involved. the driver of the other car agread to settle between us. but he reported it to the insurance company. can my husband get into trouble legally for that if there isn't any proof beyond the other persons word?

By anon5548 — On Nov 29, 2007

I had a fender (bump) bender on 10,07,07. No damage at all...the lady acted as if she was dying. But there was not enough force to hurt her. we were both stopped at a red light and My foot slipped off the brake..bump...that was it. I had paid my insurance up for a year and had not realized that it had expired...When I got home I was looking at my policy and noticed it had expired. I went the very next day and reinstated. Not a month later I get in the mail a letter stating I will lose my driving privileges if I do not show proof of insurance on that very day. If I call the officer and he sends a waiver stating the bender was under a $1000, I will only have to pay $350. I have never had an accident in my life. why am I getting treated so crappy? the lady I was trying to speak with even hung up on me. this was so rude and I am only trying to keep my driving rights so I can travel back and forth to work. Thank you for your time. MS K.Daniel

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WikiMotors, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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