A vehicle accident is one of the most frightening situations a person can experience. This is true for all accidents, whether or not an injury occurred. 

According to data compiled by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4,807,000 non-injury auto accidents in the United States in 2018. Non-injury accidents are the most common type of crash, accounting for 71.4% of all accidents. Non-injury accidents are associated with low-impact crashes between two vehicles, resulting in no visible damages or only minor dents or scratches.  

Even if you are involved in a non-injury accident, you still need to take measures to protect yourself and your vehicle. Our legal team has compiled an overview of the non-injury accident process:

Assess the Situation
Immediately after the vehicle accident, take a safety assessment of yourself and any passengers in your vehicle. Once it’s determined that everyone is OK, find a safe place - such as the side of the road or a parking lot - to investigate the damage to all the involved vehicles.

More often than not, the other driver(s) involved will be aware of the impact and follow you to the safe spot. Once there, obtain the following information from the driver: name, contact information, insurance information, license plate, and vehicle information (i.e. make, model, color). If the other driver flees, call 911 immediately. Next, take pictures of the vehicles from both close-up and far away. If it’s safe, take photos at the scene of the crash. Both are critical when dealing with the insurance company, as it helps to identify and disprove any pre-existing vehicle damage or external contributing factor to the collision. 

Request an Incident Report
One of the main reasons insurance companies deny claims is the absence of an incident report. Insurance can argue there is not enough information to pay the claim without a neutral or “third party” record of the incident. 

If your accident occurred on a public road, call the local police (or sheriff if on the interstate). Law enforcement will advise whether you should stay with your vehicle or file a report at the police station. With minor accidents, it’s fairly common to file a report at the station and be contacted hours or days after the incident. It’s important to follow up with the police station to ensure the incident report is complete and that you receive your copy. 

If the accident occurred on private property or in a parking lot, the police view it as a civil matter and are not likely to file a report. If you’re in a public parking lot (i.e. grocery store), there are protocols for reporting these incidents. Once you’ve assessed the damages, go to the management desk and file a report. Ask if there is video surveillance and, if so, request to review and record the video for insurance purposes. 

Get An Estimate
You can choose any auto-body repair shop to get an estimate for repairing your vehicle, although your insurance may suggest their preferred repair shops. The best practice is to get two estimates to back you up when dealing with the insurance company. 

Any auto-body repair shops will thoroughly check your vehicle for damages related to the accident and provide an estimate of the cost to fix it. All estimates should be itemized to show what parts, materials, and labor go into the overall repair cost.

Contact Your Insurance Company
Your first contact with your insurance company should be the date of the accident. This can be done by calling your insurance or filing a claim online. At this time, you’ll receive a claim number and the name and contact information of the adjuster assigned to your claim. 

Your insurance may offer a settlement soon after filing a claim. While it may be tempting, do not accept an offer before you obtain the incident report and repair estimate. Be prepared to send all documentation (i.e. incident report, estimates, photos) to your insurance company. The information can be emailed to the adjuster or uploaded to the claims website, and then your adjuster can speak with you in real-time. 

If you’ve worked with your insurance company and feel they’re not offering you fair payment for your damages, contact an attorney. In most circumstances, your attorney can increase the monetary amount for damages, well beyond the cost of any attorney’s fees. 

Settle the Claim
Whether you’re working with your insurance company or employed an attorney, you’ll need to complete the settlement process. 

Before any money is sent to you, you’ll be asked to sign a release stating you’re exempting the insurance company from any liability regarding the accident. Once signed, you should receive your settlement within two weeks. When you receive your check, review it to make sure everything’s in order and it’s for the amount you were promised. If working with an attorney, they will review everything for you.

If you have been involved in a non-injury car accident, you should not face your insurance company alone. The team of auto accident attorneys at Doran, Beam, & Farrell, P.A. will examine the facts of your auto accident case and determine whether your potential damage claim is valid. To schedule a FREE consultation, call us at (727) 846-1000 or complete our online contact form.

Sources
https://www.nolo.com/
https://pascoinjurylaw.com/auto-accidents
https://www.findlaw.com/injury/car-accidents/what-to-do-after-a-minor-car-accident.html