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How to handle a fender bender

By: Tyler Dewitt

Date: Tuesday, 17. November 2009

The short definition of "fender bender" would be that it's a noun that refers to the collision between motor vehicles that produces some minor damages. Let's look at this in a bit more of a detailed way.

Fender benders can take place almost everywhere at least two motor vehicles interact with each other. You may be thinking that a lot of fender benders happen while in traffic, and you would be right in that assumption, but you need to know that a whole lot more fender benders take place in places like parking lots, driveways and intersections.

A fender bender is indeed a minor accident whose signs sometimes aren't even visible, but despite this fact, such event may still prove to be an issue to those involved. When involved in fender benders, it's not an unusual thing for the participants to settle the cost of it between them without involving any authorities. Even so, this isn't advisable. However, this does happen because even though insurance agencies provide coverage for any damages or injuries that are caused in a fender bender, they also have the right to raise the driver's premiums, and this is the reason some drivers choose to not involve his or her insurance agency.

Fender benders are called so because usually the fender is the part of the motor vehicle that gets the large part of the damage in most low speed accident scenarios. This isn't always true, but it usually it is. Fender benders tend to happen in intersections when one driver slams on the brakes too suddenly, causing the driver behind him to collide with the rear part of his car. Another situation is when an inattentive driver pulls out of a driveway without paying close attention to the oncoming traffic. A similar driver can produce a fender bender in parking lots where there are a lot of cars in a very small area.

Fender benders rarely cause major damages or injuries, but this doesn't mean that you don't have to report them to your insurance company and to the police. Insurance companies usually require that any and all accidents, regardless of their magnitude, have to be reported and this means that a police officer has to come to the scene of a reported accident and document his or her observations about the accident and the drivers. Even though an insurance company will eventually cover the repair costs and medical claims, sometimes there are other legal issues which could arise from a minor thing such as a fender bender and we'll talk about them later in the article.

On the one hand, one could have a strong argument about the lack of need to call your insurance agency if the estimated cost of repairing the damages is below the deductible on the insurance policy. The same one may continue arguing the fact that reporting an insignificant fender bender would only result in a waste of time, paperwork and could lead to higher premiums. From this point of view it would be much easier for the drivers to agree on estimated out of pocket cost of repairs and get over it.

However, on the other hand, is it really a wise choice leaving the interpretation of a "little fender bender" to the individuals involved in an accident especially when tempers may be flaring up? Even if one of them does accept responsibility, how can they be reasonably sure of the estimated cost of repairing the perceived damage, and more importantly how does it compare to the deductible on the insurance policies covering the vehicles?

The temptation is big to just walk away from a fender bender, but what people need to understand is the fact that a situation that is so open to influenced interpretation can be easily mishandled and turn into something else, so why not be rather safe than sorry?

First Appearance May Not Tell The Entire Story

We said earlier that the general definition of a fender bender refers to a minor accident that involves motor vehicles, something that usually happens at low speed in places that see a high density of cars per square foot. At first glance there might be very little or maybe no visible damage, the bumper may be collapsed a bit, or a small dent, you and your fellow motorist exchange some words, not necessarily information, and then shrug it off and continue each with your respective business that day.

This is the first mistake that some drivers make, by assuming that if the damage doesn't appear to be visually major then it's just a cosmetic repair; however things can turn out to be quite on the contrary.

Let's assume for a moment that you've been involved in such a fender bender when another car hit you in the rear at a traffic light, you get out of the car and survey the damages, and there are absolutely no visible marks of an accident happening, hence you see no need to exchange information with the other driver, you drive away without any problems and forget all about it. Now that could have been the end of that, just that a few weeks later one of your tires shows some excessive wearing and you take in to get a replacement. That's when the mechanics ask you whether or not you happened to drive through a nasty pothole or some other obstacle, and you remember the minor fender bender from a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that the tire has been seeing so much wear because the whole rear section of the car got bent down during the fender bender. The damage on the outside was minor at best, but underneath, the car suffered some major damage that required you make a large payment for repairing it, since so much time had passed from the accident and you didn't think it necessary to exchange information with the other driver.

Protecting Yourself

It's important that you report any fender bender regardless of how minor it appears to the authorities and to your insurance agency because most states require you to do so by law. If a police officer doesn't show up at the scene of your fender bender for whatever reason, you have to go to the nearest police station and make a report of the incident. In some states you're also required to notify the Department of Transportation of that state.

It's really very important that you call your insurance agency about the accident because despite the possibility of raised premiums you may face other even larger bills if the other person involved in the accident comes forward with injuries they suffered and didn't tell you about at the scene. If you're not the driver at-fault then your insurance rates shouldn't go up.

Let's assume for a moment that you're involved in an accident a bit bigger than your average fender bender. You're alright, but the cars show some moderate damage and through some weird circumstances there are some injuries, someone hit their heads on the wheel, or sprained their back, something of the sort. The first important thing that you need to do is to stay at the scene, and this is true for any accident, even a mere fender bender. You have to stay at the scene of the accident until the police arrive and they tell you that you can leave. If you choose to leave the scene this could result in driver's license sanctions and maybe even criminal charges if the situation was bad enough. However, this is not the same in all states and it all depends on the legislation.

Take very detailed notes while you are on the scene of the accident, take down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the other driver and any witnesses, and make sure that you write down other information such as where the accident took place, the condition of the road, speed limits, the weather - those types of factors. They may prove to be of use in the case of litigation.

It's important that in such a case you don't admit fault to anyone, even though you think it is your fault. However, there might have been other factors at play which had a role in the accident. So don't make statements to anybody at the scene of an accident except for the police. When you talk to them, tell them just the facts of what happened let them draw their own conclusions as to what happens after they consider their observations.

You should also see a doctor after you're free to leave the scene of the accident, because it is possible that you suffered an injury and you don't feel it because of the adrenaline that started to flood your blood stream when the accident happened. Make a note of telling your doctor of any symptoms like memory loss, headaches, disorientation or any other unusual physical or mental feeling. A lot of people hit their heads during these accidents and don't realize that they're injured, so better to be safe than sorry. Reporting your symptoms will rule out the possibility of you suffering a concussion or suffering from some sort of brain injury.

What Can Happen After A Fender Bender?

Problems from simple fender benders can come in the form of driver's license suspensions if, for instance, you're driving a friend's car and you can get hold of that friend for the insurance information. Even if you talk it over with the other party and there's no visual damage to talk of, you can always expect to receive a call a couple of days or weeks later from the other party or from the other parties' attorney asking for your insurance information because they wanted you to pay for a minor repair that showed up on a later inspection. Since you can't offer that information because you can't get hold of the insurance holder of the car, the DMV will suspend your license for a year because it considers you weren't insured at the time of the accident.

Choosing to go around the official way of dealing with a fender bender is an option that is fraught with risk because it involves so many variables like the cost of the repairs, or the other driver's word, or what if an injury appears after the both of you leave the scene?

Despite all of these possible issues, a lot of people prefer to go at it this way rather than wasting time and paperwork through their insurance agencies. And if you choose to do this as well, then make sure that you create a sort of ad-hoc contract right there on the spot and have the other driver sign it; this should be a piece of paper that would say that the signer will agree to pay for however much the damages are at the scene of the accident, this will have some power in the court of law, but it is highly advisable that you don't do this since you don't really know who you're dealing with. The best way would be to go through all the official and legal moves, so that you won't have to deal with any kinds of headaches later.

The possible negatives of reporting a fender bender to your insurance agency, especially if you're not the one at fault, are considerably smaller than choosing to settle with the other driver on the spot and then find out that the problems are actually larger than you first thought. Of course, settling a fender bender remains between you and the other driver. Even so, you cannot know who you are dealing with. If you are going to settle in private, make sure that you at least take some photographs of any signs of damage on both cars, if there are any, and make him or her sign something that will say they are being paid or will pay however much is considered at the scene of the accident. Again, this is not advisable and you will be much better off just being honest and contacting your insurance agency and the police.

Conclusion:, your source for cheap car insurance as well as insurance quotes, is the proud contributor of this article to As a knowledgeable company, we understand that even the smallest fender bender can end up resulting in unexpected circumstances. Therefore, we take pride in providing accurate and insightful information to consumers so they can be well-informed as well as prepared for any unforeseen problems.

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All Comments (13)

Showing 1 - 13 comments


i was on West of Russell road, than turning to North Annie Oakey..Saw the white parked vehicle..the left side of Annie oakey South was clear i feel i had a clear path..the on coming vehicle was far far away was not even avoid hitting the parked car i went around he speed up so fast by the time i pass half way of the parked car..while passing he snapped my driver side mirror..and the speed limit is 35 he was going 40-45 miles in a residental area.. just asking who's at fault..

kimberly charlier,

I had a co worker claiming that i backed into her truck when we were leaving work at the supercenter. I wasnt even in my truck yet when she claimed I hit her door. she didnt speak english too well and pointing out a small dent in her door. she wouldnt give me her insurance name but to calm her down i gave her mine. I informed them on what happen I was still in my parking spot. she didnt call my insurance co. for days, i did an interview that was recorded with my insurance agency and brought my truck in for pictures and exaim the women didnt want to get the police involved and she wouldnt bring her truck to my insurance agency which is our town, her dent is well above where my bumper would hit her truck it looks to be someone hit her door with theirs now 3 weeks later she approaches me at work with a 500.00 estimate and she still never brought her truck in for an adjuster insurance co told her im not at fault and her damage couldnt be done by my vehicle so she is now involving management at work. now what should i do

Casual Reader,

A wandering article. No help.


My thoughts are that if the accident is minor and the cars are at least 7 years old or more and the people involved decide its so minor to not even worry about then they are taking full responsibility for their own vehicles and fault goes undetermined. It would be pretty hard without police assessments of the acccident to make either party liable....sometimes both parties are equally at there and good-bye

yasor rap,

What if you are involved in a fender bender and the other person (person who got hit) says there is no damage and wants to just leave it as is, what can happen because of this? no info was exchanged.


I was in a fender bender and I backed into someone and damaged their left back fender. I live in a fault state. We were in a private parking lot and a policeman showed up and said since damage was less than $1,000 per each car and we both had insurance and no history we could handle it between ourselves. I agreed to pay for her damage. Could she collect from her insurance and me? Could she try to get diminished value on her car from my insurance? What if she receives a check from me and doesn't use it to fix her car and denies I paid her? I didn't want to report this to my insurance to keep my record clear. She seems honest but she is playing "games" telling me she talked to a store clerk who witnessed the accident and trying to get me to pay for a rental car while her car is being repaired. She doesn't work.


If there are no injuries to people and the cars are drivable you do not have to involve authorities.

Stanley Sanders,

I had mine replaced, due to some sort of malfunction. I agree with what you said, "Even if you talk it over with the other party and there's no visual damage to talk of". It is annoying. Which is why I had no choice but to just buy new ones. Fenders are usually hard to find but was able to when I was looking for originals, brand new, and has low prices.


I have a question. I was backing out of my parents driveway and there was a small truck parted right behind the driveway. I hit the bumper lightly. The guy said that he already had backed into a telephone pole and had loosen up the bumper. He told me he would charge me only $300 for hitting his truck. My question is should I report this to my Ins. or just pay out right to him. Do I need to report this to my Ins. Co?

jenny crowley,

What happens when the person who scratched the bumper bar is not insured and only wants to pay 600 dollars to repaint the scratch and you want the tyre and the rim replaced for $3500 as well?


I had a minor fender bender about a month ago. There were absolutely no damages to either car. The passanger of the vehicle I hit was taken to the hospital because she apparently had "blood pressure" issues..or history of high blood pressure. Now, they're going after my insurance for "personal injuries due to the accident"..What are the chances that they will actually get something out of this?

Bob Martin,

What if you are involved in a fender bender and the other person (person who got hit) says there is no damage and wants to just leave it as is, what can happen because of this? no info was exchanged.

Deana Sago,

What if you have a fender bender both look at cars say no big deal and you both leave the scene then the other person decides they want to turn it in to the insurance?

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