If you’ve ever been in a fender bender, you know it’s usually more of a nuisance than a serious problem for your car. Some people even wonder if they should file an insurance claim for such a minor accident, or that paying out of pocket for small repairs is better than risking an increase in your insurance rates.
Those are both good points, but they don’t tell the whole story. Here are seven things you should keep in mind before deciding to skip a claim on a fender bender.
1. Looks can be deceiving.
Oftentimes, a fender bender doesn’t seem to warrant an insurance claim because the damage appears minor. However, looks can be deceiving. Even at low speeds, a two-vehicle accident can result in thousands of dollars in damage.
For example, a Dodge Neon rear ends an Acura RDX SUV. Because of the bumper height variance, the damage to the vehicles might appear minor but most likely it equates to $10,000 worth of parts and body work. If you have an older car, it may even be considered totaled due to the high cost to repair it outweighing its worth.
2. Some state laws require it
Some states require you report accidents, no matter the amount of damage done; others set predetermined minimal boundaries. For example, in the state of California you must report any car accident that causes damage of $500 or more. In fact, some insurance companies require all accidents be reported or you risk losing your coverage.
3. Injuries may show up later
Worse than the damage to your car is the injury a person might sustain from a fender bender. People often experience an adrenaline rush when in stressful situations and this can delay any signs of injury. For example, you may have hurt your neck due to whiplash, even in low-speed accidents. However, you may not feel the symptoms until a day or two later. If you do not report the accident at the time it occurs, you may have a harder time making a claim.
4. People make false claims
Quite the opposite can occur with injuries as well. There have been many cases of fraudulent claims of personal injury. If you don’t file an insurance claim for a fender bender, you may not be protected by your insurance company if an accusation of personal injury pops up in the future.
5. You were the only one involved
When another party is involved, it’s in your best interest to always report a fender bender. However, if you are the only one in an accident and you are sure you have not hurt yourself, another or their property, then you may consider not making a claim. An example of this might be backing into your fence. Chances are the damage is minimal and you will be able to cover it with your own money. No matter the case, you may want to consult an expert before making a final decision.
6. You might have accident forgiveness
Several insurance companies offer accident forgiveness as a perk for safe drivers. Accident forgiveness is a benefit that essentially overlooks an accident in terms of raising your premiums. Typically, the longer you’ve been with an insurance company, the greater the accident amount forgiven.
For example, some companies will give you a “credit” of $1,000 per year without an accident. After three years, this would equate to forgiveness for up to a $3,000 accident. Something to remember is that accident forgiveness, even for a fender bender claim, is often a one-time benefit.
7. Your deductible is more than your claim.
Another reason to consider not filing an insurance claim for a fender bender is if your deductible is more than the cost of damage caused by the accident. As mentioned before, let’s say you run into your fence, slightly damaging it and there is no apparent damage to your car. If the repairs to the fence cost less than your deductible, then you may not want to file a claim and risk an increase in your premiums.
There’s a lot to think about if you’re considering whether you should file an insurance claim for a fender bender. Before making a final decision, make sure to check state laws and your insurance requirements before opting not to report. Also, keep in mind circumstances such as other parties involved and potential risks.