When you find yourself involved in a minor car accident, logical thinking sometimes goes out the window. The shock of what just happened can make it difficult for you to respond appropriately.
As your trusted car accident attorney, Esquire Law is here to walk you through what steps to take when you get into a minor car accident. When you know ahead of time how to respond, you don’t have to worry about what to do in the moment. Check out the step-by-step guide below.
What’s Considered a Minor Car Accident?
So what’s the difference between minor and major car accidents?
- A minor car accident typically involves low-speed collisions that result in minimal vehicle damage and little to no bodily harm. These incidents are often characterized by minor dents, scratches, or bumper damage to the vehicles involved.
- A major car accident involves high-speed collisions, severe injuries, significant vehicle damage, and potentially multiple vehicles. These accidents often require immediate medical attention, and extensive repairs, and can have long-term consequences for those involved.
Immediate Steps to Take After a Minor Car Accident
The best way to protect yourself in the case of a car accident is to know what steps to take when one occurs. Knowing these crucial steps will ensure you cover all your bases and stay calm in a high-stress situation.
Here’s what you should do when you find yourself in a minor car accident.
1. Ensure Safety
The first thing you should do after getting in a minor car accident is to make sure you’re safe. Check for any visible injuries. If you sustain visible injuries or feel intense pain, stay put until emergency assistance arrives at the scene.
If possible, move your vehicle to the highway shoulder or a nearby parking lot—if traveling on a residential road. Once parked, turn your car off and step outside until help arrives.
Next, make sure any other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians involved in the accident are okay. If anyone needs immediate medical attention, call 911. However, if the accident is a minor one, it’s likely that no serious injuries will be sustained.
2. Assess & Document Damage
Use your phone to thoroughly document the crash scene. Take photos and videos of your vehicle, other vehicles involved, the position of the vehicles, and all visible damages caused. Make sure the photos and videos are clear before leaving the scene. Both your insurance company and your attorney will use this documentation as evidence to support your case in any future litigation.
3. Exchange Information
Exchange contact information with the other drivers and any passengers involved in the accident. This includes:
- First and last names
- Driver’s license information
- Vehicle information
- License plate number
- Year, make, and model
- VIN number
- Insurance information
- Insurance company name
- Policyholder’s name
- Policy type
- Policy number
- Agent Name
- Crash location details
- Road names
- Direction of travel
- Nearby establishments
- Names and badge numbers of any responding police officers
- If the police don’t respond to the crash scene, gather witness statements from other drivers, passengers, and bystanders. Note the contact information for each witness.
4. Contact the Police
After contacting emergency services—if needed—contact the local police. This is important to do even if no one is seriously injured. The police will gather witness statements and conduct a thorough police report documenting the accident. If legal action is taken, the report can be used as evidence in any negotiations or court proceedings.
The police report will also help your insurance company process the accident claim you filed. All you need to do is cooperate with the police officer(s) and provide as much information as you can.
Keep in mind, though, that police officers don’t always respond to minor car accidents. In this case, you can file an accident report through your local DMV. Your insurance provider and attorney can use this report in place of an official police report.
Dealing With Insurance Companies & Adjusters After a Minor Car Accident
Dealing with insurance providers and adjusters is another key step in the aftermath of a minor car accident. Not sure what to do? We’re here to help.
How to Handle Car Insurance Claims
Start by filing an accident claim with your insurance provider. An insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will call you to gather additional information about the accident. Be sure to answer all of the adjuster’s questions, even if the answer is simply, “I don’t know.” Answer honestly without providing more information than what’s necessary.
Your insurance company should provide you with the damage valuation of your vehicle. This valuation outlines the cost of damages that your vehicle sustained along with what it would cost to repair the damages. While vehicles involved in major accidents are often totaled—meaning the projected cost of repairs is greater than the value of the car—vehicles involved in minor accidents can typically be repaired for much less than the car’s worth.
Why It’s Necessary to Report a Minor Accident to Your Insurance Company
Here’s why you have to report car accidents—even minor ones—to your insurance provider.
- Remain compliant with your policy: Most insurance policies require you to report car accidents, despite the severity level.
- Protect yourself against any future claims: Other drivers involved in the accident may file a claim against you down the road: Reporting the accident to your insurance company when it happens will establish a record of it, which will benefit you if a claim is filed later on.
- Access expert advice: When you report the accident to your insurance provider, they can guide you through the claims process, offer counsel, and provide support along the way.
- Accurately evaluate damages: While damages to your person and your vehicle may seem minor at first, hidden damages can pop up after the initial shock of the accident passes. Reporting the accident lets your insurance company assess the damages and determine a course of action. They will ensure your car gets the repairs or replacement parts that it needs.
- Potential coverage benefits: Even if the accident is minor, your policy may cover some or all of the damages—including car repairs, medical expenses, and lost wages.
When to Consult a Lawyer After a Minor Car Accident
Here are a few scenarios in which it may be beneficial to consult a skilled personal injury attorney after a minor car accident.
- Who caused the accident is unclear
- Multiple parties are potentially at fault for the accident
- Another involved party has decided to pursue litigation against or even sue you for the damages caused
Here are just some of the ways that an attorney can help you navigate minor accident cases.
- Negotiate with your insurance company and the defendant’s attorney
- Gather and assess medical records
- Provide sound legal advice
- Represent you in court
Understanding Arizona & Utah Car Accident Laws
It’s important to know the laws you’re bound by when you get in a car accident in Arizona or Utah. Knowing this information will help you seek proper legal representation and know what to expect from any future negotiations or litigation.
Key Arizona & Utah Car Accident Laws Relevant to Minor Accidents
Comparative Negligence Laws
This principle of fault states that if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for the accident, they can still receive some compensation for their injuries. The compensation is simply reduced relative to the percentage of their fault.
There are two types of comparative negligence: pure and modified. Let’s break them down.
- Pure Comparative Negligence: Arizona is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that the plaintiff can pursue compensation no matter what their degree of fault is.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: Utah is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that the plaintiff can only seek compensation if their degree of fault is within a predetermined threshold. This threshold—which varies between states—is 50% in Utah. In other words, if the plaintiff shares 50% or more fault for the accident, he or she cannot receive compensation for injuries and damages they sustained.
At-Fault vs. No-Fault
Arizona is an at-fault state. This principle states that the driver who caused the accident must pay for the damages sustained by other involved parties. In most cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy covers the costs. As a result, drivers involved in car accidents typically file a claim against each other.
If the driver either doesn’t have an insurance policy, or the policy doesn’t cover enough of the damages, the injured party can sue the at-fault driver. That’s why Arizona requires drivers to hold an insurance policy with minimum liability coverage—to protect the at-fault driver from being sued and having to pay for the damages out of pocket.
Utah is a no-fault state. This principle states that each driver’s insurance company must pay for their policyholder’s accident-related expenses, regardless of who caused the accident. As a result, drivers involved in car accidents typically file a claim with their respective insurance providers rather than against each other.
Resolve Your Auto Accident Case With Esquire Law
Were you recently involved in a car accident and need compensation for the damages you sustained? Esquire Law Firm is the name you can trust to pursue justice on your behalf.
Our car accident, motorcycle accident, and truck accident lawyers in Arizona and Utah have what it takes to litigate with big insurance companies and achieve the financial compensation you deserve. Request a free case evaluation today to get one step closer to justice.