Being involved in a minor vehicle accident can be traumatic and expensive. Even if you’re not the at-fault driver, you can still be facing expenses relating to injuries and property damage. In a perfect world, the insurance company will cut your check without any issues—but this is rarely how the accident claims process works. Recovering damages after minor car accidents can be a lengthy and frustrating process. However, there are some steps you can take to help make the process move along a little more smoothly.
What to Do After a Minor Car Accident
Even a minor car accident can result in injuries and property damage. Your bumper may only have a tiny ding but this doesn’t mean your suspension hasn’t been affected. You may be dealing with alignment issues. While a little pulling to the left or right may not seem like a big deal. After all, all that’s needed to correct the problem is to turn your steering wheel.
However, when your vehicle’s alignment is off, it can cause other issues for you. You’ll find yourself replacing your tires more often and may notice a decrease in fuel efficiency. You may also pose a potential risk to other drivers. A misaligned vehicle is harder to control, especially on turns or at a higher rate of speed.
Minor injuries like whiplash or even a bruised shoulder from a seatbelt strap can turn into more serious problems without medical treatment. Even treating a minor injury can quickly become expensive. So, what should you do after a minor car accident to help ensure you can recover damages?
Report the Minor Collision
States have varying laws when it comes to reporting minor vehicle accidents. In Oklahoma, you aren’t required to immediately report all minor collisions if the property damage is under $500. However, since you can easily shell out $500 or so to replace a bumper or fender, it’s probably best to file a report at the time of the accident. Something else to consider is not leaving the accident scene.
If the other driver files a claim for damages against you, leaving the scene of the accident can turn into a hit-and-run charge. While the charge probably won’t result in significant penalties, especially in a minor car accident, it can make it difficult for you to file for compensation. To be safe, call the authorities immediately after the accident and stay on the scene even if the other driver decides to leave.
Get a Copy of the Accident Report
Everyone from your personal injury attorney to the involved insurance companies is going to want to see a copy of the accident report. Depending on your insurer, the report may be necessary to get the claims process started.
The responding officers will start the report at the accident scene but don’t expect to leave with a copy. Most accident reports take a few days to complete but yours should be ready within about seven business days. You can pick up a copy of the report at the police station or online. You should expect to pay a nominal fee, it’s typically under $10.
Why is your accident report necessary to receive compensation? Your accident report will contain a ton of information relevant to your claim. Some of the information will include naming the at-fault driver/s, contact information for any witnesses, along with the responding officers’ notes. All of this information can help support your accident claim.
Make an Appointment with a Physician
Chances are any injuries you may sustain in a minor car accident aren’t going to warrant an ambulance ride to the emergency room. Thankfully, this is a good thing to have happened.
However, even if you don’t believe you sustained any injuries, make an appointment with a physician. Even a bruise on the shoulder from your seatbelt strap can turn into a more serious injury without treatment. Besides, you can never be too careful when it comes to your health.
Start Getting Repair Estimates
Even a minor fender bender can cause significant vehicle damage. Remember, your vehicle’s alignment is crucial for tire wear, fuel economy, and safety.
Before you commit to a repair shop, get a few estimates; this is something your insurance company is probably going to request. You might as well get started early; this way, you may not need to wait as long for your settlement check.
Your goal in life may be to not become a pack rat, but sometimes it’s necessary, and this applies to filing an insurance claim after a minor car accident. Your insurance company will want to see your medical records and vehicle repair estimates. If you’re already paying off expenses relating to the accident, make sure to save every receipt.
If you don’t have the receipts or bills, you may not be able to include these items in your compensation claim.
How Comparative Negligence Can Affect Your Car Accident Claim
Oklahoma is a comparative negligence state, which can be beneficial when you’re trying to recover damages after a minor car accident. What is comparative negligence? The premise is fairly simple; the rule basically states more than one driver can be responsible for an accident.
The rule also allows at-fault drivers to file for compensation as long as they’re not assigned more than 50% of the blame. If you’re found to be partially responsible for the vehicle accident, your settlement amount will be reduced by your percentage of the blame.
How blame is determined can vary. In most minor car accidents, your police report will assign blame to one or more of the involved drivers. The insurance company can also assign blame, along with a civil court judge or jury.
Let an Attorney Help You Recover Damages After a Minor Car Accident
If you’re involved in a minor vehicle collision, it’s always a good idea to schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will help ensure you receive full compensation, even if you’re assigned some of the blame.
Best of all, your attorney can handle the often tricky negotiations with the insurance company so that you don’t have to.
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