Car Accidents and Personal Injury Claims
When people hear about car accidents and personal injury claims, it is usually because there is a story in the newspaper of a serious accident on a major highway or a video of a multi-car pile up on the news. Unfortunately, these accidents happen every day.
However, you don’t often hear about small “fender benders” that happen in the parking garage or minor slow-speed collisions in which no injuries occur. And tapping a car while backing up in a parking lot or gently rear-ending the bumper of another car at a red light hardly seem news-worthy. Often, these types of minor car accidents are not even reported. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are more than 10 million crashes every year that go unreported.
But even minor car accidents like these can be a financial strain on any party. Minor car accidents can result in physical injury or death. Even if there are no injuries, there may be damage to your vehicle or the vehicle of the other driver. If your vehicle does have only minor damage, it may seem like it is hardly worth the trouble to call the insurance company. Some people even think they cannot file a claim because they did not suffer any physical injuries. But even a minor fender bender suddenly can become a time-consuming inconvenience filled with insurance adjusters, auto body estimates, unexpected bills, and even litigation. Sometimes a personal injury claim may be the only way to recover the damages you suffer, even in a minor car accident. But is it worth it? How do you know what is the best action to take after a minor car accident?
When Can I File a Personal Injury Claim after a Minor Car Accident?
You don’t have to be in a major car accident to file a personal injury claim. You can file a personal injury claim any time you suffer physical injury or personal property damage after an accident caused by the negligence of another driver.
To prove that another driver was negligent, you must show that:
- The driver owed you a duty to drive carefully;
- The driver failed to drive carefully (perhaps by disregarding a traffic signal, exceeding the speed limit, or simply being careless or distracted);
- The driver’s failure to drive carefully caused your accident;
- You suffered some injury or personal property damage as a result of the accident.
If you can prove these four things, you have a legal basis for filing a personal injury claim and receiving compensation for your damages from the other driver.
What Are the Most Common Injuries Suffered in Minor Car Accidents?
Any car accident can result in any type of injury or even death. However, there are several types of injuries that commonly result in most car accidents. These may include:
- Neck and back pain
- Head injury or subsequent headaches/migraines
- Soft tissue damage (muscles and tendons)
- Cuts or lacerations
- Broken bones
- Bruised ribs.
Most injuries that occur in minor car accidents are to the head and neck, hands and wrists, and legs and feet. However, injuries are not always immediately apparent. Some injuries, like soft tissue damage and bruising, do not present themselves right away at the scene of the accident. Many minor accident victims think they are uninjured and refuse or forego medical care, only to later experience symptoms such as:
- Muscle soreness or tightness
- Tingling or “pins-and-needles”
- Decreased range of motion
These delayed symptoms could continue for days, weeks, or even months and may require extensive treatment to correct. Even if you think your injuries or symptoms are minor, it is always best to seek or accept medical care and undergo a full evaluation so a doctor can determine the nature and extent of any injuries you may have suffered. If you refuse medical treatment, the insurance companies may claim that any symptoms you experience later did not occur as a result of the accident. This can have a significant effect on your ability to receive compensation for your damages.
What Other Types of Damages Can I Claim after a Minor Car Accident?
More and more vehicles on the road are equipped with modern safety features that help drivers to avoid minor car accidents. But not every accident can be avoided.
Even if you are in an accident and are lucky enough to escape without injury, when two or more vehicles collide—even at the slightest speed—there is likely to be damage to one or all of the vehicles involved. If your vehicle is damaged, you may still have a right to recover the cost of repairs and other expenses, even if your damage is minor.
Most state laws don’t specifically define what qualifies as “minor” damage to a vehicle after an accident. Generally, under $1,000 worth of damage is considered “minor.” However, common types of damage that result from even slow-speed, low-impact collisions may include:
- Dents in the body of the car
- Dents or scratches to fenders
- Chipped or scratched paint
- Crumpled hoods or trunks
- Broken windows
- Scraped or dented rims
- Scuffed tires
- Damaged engine parts
- Broken headlights or taillights
Any of these damages easily can cost more than $1,000 to repair.
Even after a low-impact collision, you should always take pictures of any resulting damage to your car immediately after the accident. Pictures of the damage will help when the insurance company assesses your vehicle and attempts to minimize the damage that occurred from the accident.
You also should obtain an estimate from a third-party professional that is qualified to evaluate your vehicle and value your damages. Do not just accept the value that the insurance company estimates. Also, although the damage may be minor and you may want to quickly repair the damage, never make any repairs to your vehicle before obtaining an estimate by a professional mechanic. Qualified estimates will support the cost of any repairs you have to make that the other party disputes.
Obtaining an estimate also allows a professional mechanic to determine the full extent of the damage to your vehicle. Although your vehicle may appear to have suffered only external or cosmetic damage, the collision could have caused significant structural or mechanical damage that you are not aware of and that may result in very expensive repairs. For example, impact to the front of the car could damage expensive engine parts or fluid systems that may need to be repaired or replaced. Front and rear bumpers may need to be replaced even though they still look like they are in good condition on the outside. Any minor accident can lead to major repairs.
How Will I Know Whether to File A Claim after a Minor Accident?
Being involved in any kind of car accident—even a minor one—can be frustrating, expensive, and a significant hassle. When it does not look like there is much damage to your vehicle, it is easy to just return to your vehicle and not deal with the stress of reporting the accident or the insurance companies. Often, even if you are not injured in an accident, you may be startled, upset, frightened, and confused. You may not know exactly what to do or whether you should report the accident and file a claim.
If you aren’t sure whether you should report your accident or whether there is enough damage to justify filing an insurance claim, you should always err on the side of making the report and filing a claim. You also should seek advice from an experienced car accident attorney like those at Foster Wallace, LLC. Your attorney will help you:
- Determine who was at fault
- Help you determine the full extent of your injuries and expenses
- Obtain a police report and relevant witnesses and other evidence
- Make sure you receive a fair estimate for all the damage to your vehicle
- Help you value your damages and file a claim, if appropriate
- Negotiate with the insurance companies
- Make sure you are fully and fairly compensated
The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, are experienced and qualified car accident attorneys who can help you through every step of the process. We have won significant awards for client who were victims of serious car accidents and we can assist you with your minor car accident as well.
A Minor Car Accident Doesn’t Have to Be a Major Problem
Even a minor car accident can result in serious injuries, significant expenses, and major stress. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, are ready and willing to assist you after any car accident. Even if you think you are not injured and that the damage to your vehicle is minimal, it is best to let the trained professionals at Foster Wallace, LLC, assess your case and advise you on the best way to proceed.
You are entitled to be fully compensated for your damages after any accident caused by another driver. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, will help you determine who was at fault and will make sure you are compensated for any physical injuries and damage to your personal property, no matter how minor the accident may have been.
Don’t let your minor car accident become a major stress in your life. Call Foster Wallace, LLC, today at 816-249-2101 for a free initial consultation. Let us evaluate your case and help you understand all of your options. We will make sure you receive all the compensation you deserve.