Car accidents are a common occurrence in Florida. No matter where you live in the state, chances are you know at least one person who has been involved in one. You have also likely seen car accidents if you commute daily, and it’s something we all try to avoid. While being in a minor collision, or fender bender, is certainly better than a serious accident, it is still a significant event that can bring a number of questions and problems.
Foremost among these questions is whether it is worth it to notify the police and insurance carriers, or even exchange information after a minor accident. It is also common to wonder if it is a good idea to consult with an attorney after a fender bender. The truth is that the best course of action often depends on the unique circumstances of your case.
The following guide can help you understand the steps to take, and how a lawyer can potentially help if you’ve been involved in a fender bender.
What is a fender bender?
Fender bender is a general term used to refer to minor car accidents. This means there is no legal definition for fender bender under Florida law. Examples of a minor collision can include being rear-ended at a low speed, swerving into another car with minimal contact, or backing into another car while pulling out of a parking spot.
Often, if there is any damage to property, it is minor. There are usually not any significant injuries either. Despite this, fender benders can still cause property and injuries that may not be immediately apparent. This is why it is important to take proper steps even after a minor accident and be prepared for the possibility of longer-term effects, including the potential for legal action.
What to Do After a Fender Bender Accident
1. Get Out of Traffic
If possible, move your car to the emergency lane, a nearby parking lot, or anywhere else that allows traffic to continue with its usual flow. This is required by Florida Statute 316.061 in crashes involving damage to a vehicle or property. The stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than necessary.
2. Exchange Contact Information
Exchange full names, contact information, and motor vehicle information with the other driver. If they ask to see your driver’s license, show it, and ask for the same. Note the make and model of the other driver’s vehicle, as well as the color of their car. This will protect both of you in case either one of you has to file a claim. In addition, if there are any witnesses who would be willing to assist, get their full names and contact information.
3. Take Pictures
Whenever there’s litigation, it can become a game of your word against theirs. Pictures and video are the best way to depict something — as long as they’re authenticated first, which is something a lawyer can do. Take pictures of any damage to the vehicles involved, street signs, intersections, traffic signs, license plates, driver’s licenses, and anything else that may be relevant to the case, such as road or weather conditions, or injuries, if applicable.
4. Do Not Admit Anything
For example, if you were distracted by a phone notification and you took your eyes off the road for a split second, that is not something you should share with the other driver. Limit your interactions with the other driver to exchanging names and contact information. If you are absolutely certain that the accident was your fault, speak with an attorney first. If you were the sole culprit of the accident, your insurance company can make a settlement offer to cover the other driver’s losses, and you’ll be able to sleep well. However, Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if the other driver is also partly to blame, what they can recover from you will be diminished by their own percentage of fault. The same thing happens if they were mostly negligent, but you had a minor role to play in the accident. Not admitting fault at the scene can help to ensure your rights are fully protected according to the facts of the case.
5. See a Doctor
It’s possible to experience delayed onset injuries, or even internal injuries, and not be aware, even during a fender bender. You may not notice it initially because adrenaline numbs your body to pain. However, waiting to get medical attention can hurt your case in several ways. First, Florida Law requires all car insurance policies to cover up to $10,000 in medical injuries, regardless of who was at fault. But you have to file such a claim within 14 days from the date of the accident. Also, the longer you wait, the more grounds there can be for the other party to blame the injury on another issue such as exercise or work.
6. Do Not Talk With the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The opposing party in a car accident lawsuit is not the other driver — it’s their insurance company. They will assign an adjuster to the case, and if you’re not represented by your own lawyer, they will call you directly. It doesn’t matter how likable or reasonable they may sound, their job is to limit their client’s liability. And, the only way to do so is to blame you for the accident. To do so, they can use your own words against you. Avoid this pitfall by telling them you will seek legal counsel and they can talk directly with them.
Fender Bender — Frequently Asked Questions
Not all fender benders are the same. There are some situations where you may not immediately know what to do. These are a few of the most common situations that many people have in the aftermath of a fender bender.
What if you didn’t exchange information?
There may be cases where you did not exchange information with the other driver because you were convinced not to, or because both parties believed there was no damage. It is still recommended to report the accident to the police and to your insurance company and provide as much truthful information as possible. This can help you to limit your liability, particularly if the other party has a change of heart and decides to pursue legal action at any point. If you don’t have the other party’s information, the attorney can help you take the next steps, including finding potential ways to contact the other party.
What if there was a hit and run fender bender?
If you were the victim of a hit and run that still caused minor damage or injury, you should definitely report it to the police, your insurance, and seek the help of an attorney. Try to remember any information you can about the other vehicle, including the make, model, license plate number, and any damage they may have sustained. Even if it was just a fender bender, it is still illegal to leave the scene of an accident in Florida.
What if there was no damage?
Even if it seems like there was no damage and it seems like reporting the accident is a bigger hassle than the accident itself, the best course of action is to follow standard procedures, even for the most minor fender bender. Reporting the accident covers both parties in the unlikely event that someone develops an injury or reports property damage later as the result of the collision.
How An Attorney Can Help
An experienced personal injury attorney will know all the questions to ask, both from you and the other driver involved, as well as know how to move forward. If the other party is claiming injuries after a fender bender, your lawyer can ask to see medical records and take a sworn statement from the other driver, their doctor, and any witnesses. They’ll ensure maximum recovery if you sustained injuries and work to limit your liability if the other party is also claiming injuries.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.