What To Do in a Fender Bender

There’s no doubt that getting into a car accident can shake you up in every way. It can do a number on your nervous system and put a damper on your day. But when it comes to types of car accidents, they differ in severity. There are the types of accidents that can result in injury and (gulp) death. 

On the other hand, there are fender benders, which  are typically minor and more of an annoyance to your day than a life-threatening accident. They’re also one of the most common types of accidents as well.

What is a Fender Bender & What to do When it Happens | Metromile

According to a report on Traffic Safety Facts in 2016 by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about half of all accidents aren’t reported to the police and involve only minor property damage and no severe injuries. More recent data in 2019 shows that property-damage-only crashes have the highest numbers, coming in at more than 4 million, which is about double the amount of injury and fatal crashes combined. Read on to learn what to do in a fender bender and what you should know. 

What is a fender bender, exactly? 

You’ve probably heard the term before, but what is a fender bender? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term refers to “a minor automobile accident.”

The fender of your car is the part of the vehicle that curves over the wheels of the car to protect it. When you get into a fender bender, the fender can bend and become indented — hence the name fender bender. In general, these types of accidents cause minor or cosmetic property damage but typically not personal injuries. 

Top reasons fender benders happen

Fender benders are so common because it doesn’t take much to get into a minor accident. Your attention strays for a second when seeing an incoming text and suddenly you rear-end the person in front of you. Here are some common fender bender examples. 

  • A driver doesn’t brake on time and rear-ends the car in front of them (this could be from texting, not paying attention, not slowing down far enough in advance, etc.)
  • A driver is backing up and hits another car or vice versa — the other car hits the driver backing up. This could happen in a parking lot, narrow street, or areas with blind spots. 
  • A driver isn’t paying close attention and hits a parked car (it happens!) 
  • A driver doesn’t stop completely and hits another car

In many cases, fender benders occur at a slow to moderate speed which is why they typically aren’t as serious as an accident that causes injury or death. 

Fender benders can be caused by, among other things:

  • Due to texting
  • Being too close to another vehicle
  • Not paying attention
  • Not being aware of blind spots 

The best way to avoid fender benders is to stay focused, avoid distractions, and practice defensive driving. 

How to report a fender bender and file a claim 

Even if you stay on your A-game while driving, that doesn’t account for other people. Other drivers could be distracted and within mere seconds end up hitting you just enough for some bumper damage. Whether you’re at-fault or the other party is, here’s what to do in a fender bender.

Step 1: Stay calm and assess the situation 

Even though fender benders are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, they’re still a shock to your nervous system. Take a deep breath and assess the situation. Is anyone hurt? Can everyone move, walk, and breathe properly? 

After determining that everyone is okay, then you can move the car to a safe spot and take a look at the damage on the vehicles. If there are injuries, call for medical attention right away. 

Step 2: Get to a safe spot 

Before you take an inventory of the damage, make sure to get to a safe spot. You might be in the middle of the road or blocking traffic, so see if you can go to the side of the road. If not, put on your emergency lights to remain visible to other drivers. 

Step 3: Take photos and exchange your information with the other driver 

In order to file a claim with insurance, you want to have all the information you need. First, start by taking photos of the car at all possible angles that include any damage. Next, you want to exchange your personal and car insurance information with the other driver. Each party in the fender bender should have:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Car insurance policy number
  • Car insurance provider
  • Details about time, date, location, etc. regarding the fender bender 

Getting all of this information ahead of time can make filing a claim easier and may help expedite the process.

Step 4: File a police report 

You also want to file a police report regarding the accident to have a paper trail. That can help your insurance claim. A police officer may come to the site of the fender bender or you may need to go to a station to file a report. In some cases, you may be legally required to file a police report if the property damage is over a certain amount. For example, in California that amount is $1,000. You can check out state reporting requirements here.

Be sure to get a copy for yourself to have it ready for your insurance. In the case of a fender bender, some people think it’s not necessary to call the police but it can help with your claim and make things official. 

Step 5: Contact your car insurance provider and file a claim 

After a fender bender or any accident, you want to contact your car insurance provider ASAP. Give them the information first regarding what went down. Give the insurance agent all of the details of the accident and file a claim. You’ll pay your car insurance deductible and submit a claim to receive funds for repairs. 

What to do after filing a car insurance claim for a fender bender 

After filing a claim for a fender bender, get the claim processed and pay your deductible. Once that happens, you may be eligible to receive funds to cover repair costs. 

Depending on your car insurance provider, you may need to do one of the following to get an estimate for repairs:

  • You may have to submit photos 
  • Go to an auto repair shop 
  • An insurance adjuster may come to review the damage to your vehicle 

Once you’ve paid your deductible, if applicable,and received an estimate, you can go to an auto shop of your choice to fix the vehicle. If you’re unsure of options, you can always ask your car insurance provider for recommendations. 

How to prevent fender benders 

Fender benders are no fun to deal with. On one hand, you’re likely safe and okay, but on the other hand, you now have paperwork and repairs to deal with. Sometimes these things are out of your control but if you want to prevent fender benders, you can take some proactive measures. 

  • Make sure there’s enough space between you and other cars on the road 
  • Turn your phone off or put it on silent while behind the wheel
  • Take extra precautions and drive slowly during severe weather conditions
  • Practice defensive driving
  • Brake on time to make full stops at red lights as well as stop signs 
  • Follow all traffic signs
  • Be aware of blind spots
  • Drive slowly when backing up 

Taking these steps consistently can help you do your part to avoid a fender bender. 

The bottom line 

Figuring out what to do in a fender bender can be stressful, but following these steps can make the process smoother. Fender benders are nobody’s cup of tea, but they’re quite common. You can do your part to stay safe on the road and if you find yourself dealing with a fender bender, contact your insurance right away. 

If you’re looking for an insurance company that offers a simple way to file a claim, check out Metromile. You can use AVA, the AI claims assistant to walk you through the process. On top of that, you can score affordable coverage that you pay by the mile alongside a low base rate, so you never pay for more than you have to. Get a free quote with Metromile to see how much you could save. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.