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What is a Fender Bender?

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what is a fender bender

Fender benders happen every day, but are they truly car accidents? The answer is yes. Any time one vehicle collides with another, an accident has happened. There is no minimum threshold of damage or force of impact that must be met for a fender bender to be classified as an accident.

In fact, a fender bender counts as an accident even if it causes no property damage at all. No damage collisions are still accidents. An accident that barely scratches a bumper can still cause serious injuries to drivers and passengers. In fact, if you got into a fender bender, you may have valuable legal rights to receive compensation.

Here’s a closer look at fender bender accidents: what they are, the harm they can cause, and the rights victims have to receive payment for them.

What is a Fender Bender?

A fender bender, often seen as a minor automotive mishap, occurs when two vehicles experience a slight collision. The definition of “minor” can vary, but typically, it includes incidents like being rear-ended at low speeds, getting nudged by a distracted driver, or lightly tapping another vehicle while parking.

You have likely heard this term thrown about casually and may even have gotten into one, but have you ever wondered; why is it called a fender bender, and do fender benders count as accidents?

Fender benders are named after the car’s fenders, or the protective outer panels that cover a car’s wheels and frame. In a collision at low speeds with minor impact, a fender is often the only part of the vehicle that sustains damage, including dents. Hence, the term “fender bender” was born.  

The term fender-bender does not have a legal definition or strict parameters for what accident classifies as one. In general, the term fender-bender is used to describe a minor collision or accident between vehicles. It can refer to a rear-end collision, a parking lot bump, or another seemingly minor collision in traffic or while driving.

In other words, the common use of the term fender-bender is inherently ambiguous and subjective. We say it to describe a minor car accident, but of course, what counts as minor for one person might feel major to someone else.

Should You Call the Police for a Fender Bender?

It depends on the damage to property and any apparent injuries that occur.

There is a common misconception among many motorists that a fender bender does not require police involvement, and the matter can be settled between the drivers of the vehicles that collide. However, that’s not always the case. It may be helpful to call the police for a fender bender, and the law might very well require you to do so.

The Difference Between Reporting an Accident and Calling Police to the Scene

In Florida, there are two ways you can file a police report for an accident. You can call the police to arrive at the scene or contact a law enforcement department within 10 days from the date of the accident to report what happened. Which option you should choose can depend on the amount of damage the fender bender caused and whether any passengers or drivers involved have been injured.

When You’re Required to Call the Police After a Minor Car Accident

Florida law on reporting crashes states that you must call the police immediately to respond to the scene of any crash that involves a death, injury, or property damage in excess of $500. So, even in the case where there is no damage to the vehicles at all, you must call the police if anyone feels or complains of pain or discomfort after a fender bender; these are signs of a crash-related injury.

While it might not always be the case that a fender bender will meet either of these requirements, there are a few reasons why it’s a good idea to contact the police after a fender bender.

  • For one thing, $500 of vehicle damage is not a high threshold to meet, considering the price of replacement auto parts and vehicle bodywork to remove the dents and scratches common in a fender bender.
  • For another, you can usually only see the damage on the exterior of a vehicle and might not yet realize a fender bender caused mechanical damage under the hood or in the exhaust system, for example.
  • Finally, even absent any indication of damage or injury, calling the police to the scene of a collision ensures that a record will exist of what happened, which may prove useful in the future if legal issues arise.

Remember that even if there are no apparent injuries and the damage is under $500, you must still report that an accident occurred to a police department within 10 days of the date of the accident. Failure to report an accident within this deadline can harm your legal right to receive compensation and may subject you to fines and other sanctions.

Do You Need to Notify Your Insurance Company of a Fender Bender?

It is common for motorists to feel anxiety about contacting their insurer after an accident. Many fear that doing so will cause their insurance premiums to rise or the insurer to refuse to renew their policies. However, insurance premiums do not go up simply for the reporting of an accident. Insurance rates can be affected if you are determined to be at fault for an accident and injuries.

The relationship between you and your insurer is based on a contract for coverage, otherwise known as an insurance policy. Under this contract, many insurers require that all accidents be reported to the insurer by their policyholder within a specified time, regardless of severity or fault. Insurance companies consider fender benders accidents and require you to report them. If you do not report an accident to your insurer, you may be denied coverage under your own personal injury protection (PIP) policy if you try to seek compensation for injuries and other costs. In addition, you may risk being dropped from future coverage from your insurer for violation of your policy agreement.

The decision not to contact an insurer after an accident reflects flawed logic. If you do not report the accident to your insurer out of fear that you caused the crash, chances are the other driver will. If you do not report the fender bender to your insurer when you do not believe you were at fault, you risk the loss of your coverage for no reason. Either way, failing to report a fender bender works against you.

Are Injuries Common in a Fender Bender Accident?

Much of the justification drivers have for not contacting police or insurers is their belief that no injuries have occurred in the accident due to the minimal damage present on the vehicles involved. This is a dangerous presumption and often a false sense of security.

While fender benders may not cause visibly serious injuries, they can still cause harm that has significant impacts on your life and health now and in the future. Neck, back, and shoulder soft tissue injuries (sometimes called whiplash) are common in fender bender collisions, for example, and can cause an accident victim to suffer from significant pain and discomfort. In some cases, it can take months or years to begin to feel better. Some victims may even feel the impacts of those injuries for the rest of their lives.

Fender bender victims can face unexpected medical expenses for treatment or therapy related to an injury. Injuries can also lead to missing work or limiting an accident victim’s ability to work a full day, which takes a toll on the victim’s income.

Who is Most Commonly at Fault in a Fender Bender?

Although a fender bender may not cause immediately obvious property damage or severe injuries, it is still necessary to decide fault for liability and insurance coverage purposes. The fault assigned in a fender bender will depend on the particular circumstances of the accident that occurs. The vast majority of fender benders include rear-end collisions and parking lot accidents.

Rear-End Collisions

In most rear-end fender benders, the driver of the trailing vehicle is at fault for failing to stop in time to avoid a collision with the rear of the vehicle in front. Driver distraction often plays a role in these collisions. A driver loses focus for a moment, fails to realize the vehicle in front of them has stopped, and does not have time to react before their front bumper hits the other vehicle’s rear bumper.

There are exceptions to this common trigger. Occasionally, a rear-end fender bender triggers a chain reaction by pushing the lead vehicle into the rear of another vehicle ahead, and so on. In those cases, the driver of the vehicle pushed by the initial impact does not necessarily bear responsibility for colliding with the next vehicle in the chain. Likewise, the driver of a car that backs into the front of a car behind can deserve the blame for the collision.

Parking Lot Accidents

Liability in parking lot accidents can be more difficult to discern. Parking lots frequently feature confusing or non-existent traffic patterns, tight corners, and limited visibility. To determine who is at fault for a parking lot fender bender, a lawyer may need to interview witnesses, review security camera footage, and make reasonable inferences about the speed vehicles were traveling when they collided.

Can You Seek Compensation After a Fender Bender Accident?

Victims of a fender bender sometimes feel hesitant to seek compensation for their damages. They wonder if such a “minor” accident really deserves a lawyer’s attention. Accident victims may even partially blame themselves for what happened.

Those are understandable emotions, but they should not get in the way of seeking compensation when a fender bender causes injuries. The law entitles all accident victims, including victims of fender benders, to seek compensation when they suffer serious injuries because of someone else’s careless conduct. In a legal action for damages, fender bender accident victims may obtain payment for:

  • The costs of medical care for their injuries.
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses they had because of the accident and their injuries, like the cost of fixing vehicle dents and scratches or of paying for a rental vehicle.
  • The wages and income they lose if their injuries keep them out of work.
  • Their pain, suffering, and other life difficulties stemming from the accident and injuries.

These categories of damages can add up to a potentially significant amount of money, even in a fender bender. Never assume that you do not have legal rights simply because someone called your accident “minor”. What’s minor to other people may feel major to you, and you deserve compensation for any harm you suffered.

What You Should Do After a Fender Bender in Florida

If you suffered injuries in a fender bender that was at least partially the other driver’s fault, you may have valuable legal rights to compensation. Taking the following steps can help you protect your legal and financial rights.

Contact law enforcement

Once you have checked yourself for injuries and made it to a safe location at the scene of the crash, contact the police. You must wait at the scene for them to arrive and stay until they tell you that you can go. Follow up with the police department to obtain a copy of the police report.

Seek medical attention

If you have any visible injuries or feel pain and discomfort after a fender bender, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you do not think you suffered injuries, get a check-up within 24 hours to make sure. Some potentially serious injuries do not show symptoms immediately. Failure to seek medical attention when you are injured can make your condition worse. It can also weaken your legal rights to receive compensation.

Follow through with medical treatment

Follow the treatment plan for any injuries your doctors diagnose. If you do not follow your medical team’s orders, you risk delays in your recovery or possibly permanent damage to your health in the future. You also put your legal rights at risk by opening yourself up to arguments that you did not take care of yourself; as a result, you may not receive compensation.

Contact a personal injury lawyer

Your options after a fender bender accident may include filing an insurance claim, or even a personal injury lawsuit, depending on your circumstances. A car accident attorney can assist you by communicating with your own and the other driver’s insurance company, helping you navigate the claims process, and negotiating toward fair compensation for your losses. 

If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a fender bender in Florida, contact the Orlando car accident lawyers at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and options.

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