What To Do If You Are in A Car Accident With No Damage
You were inching along on your way to work, just another morning of bumper-to-bumper traffic, when you felt a sudden jolt. The car behind you took a little too long to stop and just barely ran into your rear bumper. You both pulled over to the shoulder and got out of your vehicles, but you were surprised to see that there was no apparent damage to your car. Not even a scratch. So what do you do? Pretend it didn't happen and go on your merry way? What if you were the one who hit the other driver -- can you be certain they won't file a surprise (and possibly frivolous) accident or injury claim?
If you're in a car accident with no damage, knowing what to do can help you avoid unexpected hardships further down the road.
Are You Sure There's No Damage?
Even if you can't see any damage, or it appears to be limited to a small scratch or paint mark, there may be minor damage that has gone unnoticed. This is also true with respect to injuries, as some soft-tissue injuries (whiplash, etc.) may take a while to show symptoms. So if you simply get back in your car and drive off without getting the other driver's insurance policy number and contact information, you have effectively forfeited your ability to file a claim should vehicle damage (or bodily injuries) from the accident appear at a later time.
So what types of damage may go unnoticed right after a minor car accident? That depends on the type of car, its initial condition, the nature of the accident, and other factors. But here are some examples:
- Leaks -- It's possible that a minor accident with no apparent damage actually results in a leaky oil pan, radiator, or some other car part that holds fluid. All it takes is a tiny rupture to create a potentially serious problem.
- Reduced Battery Life -- The impact of a collision can sometimes knock the battery loose, agitating sediment in the battery or causing a short circuit in the lead plates, thus shortening the life of the battery. This is a relatively minor concern, but something to consider.
- Computer Diagnostics Delay -- It may take your car's computer diagnostics system additional time to check the vehicle and report any internal damage. If you don't think there's any damage but the check engine light is on, then make sure you get it checked out before coming to a conclusion about your car's condition.
- Alignment -- Car bumpers are designed to absorb the shock of a collision. But even in the absence of visible damage, the vehicle could still be knocked out of alignment. This is rare in minor accidents with no apparent damage, but still possible.
Given these and other possible types of unseen damage your vehicle may sustain in an accident, it makes sense to exchange information with the other motorist as a precaution. It's also smart practice to take photos and notes about the incident; you never know whether you or the other motorist will need file a claim at a later date.
Car Accident With No Damage? You May Still Need to Report It
If you were in a car accident with no damage, you may be thinking that you're better off just not reporting it to your insurance company. After all, you don't want your rates hiked if you're not filing a claim. But that could be a mistake, especially when you consider that most automobile insurance policies require you to report all accidents -- major and minor -- to the insurer. Although this is difficult to enforce, especially if there is no police record, it's usually in your best interests to do so, particularly if you live in a "no-fault" state (in which case, your own insurer covers vehicle damage regardless of fault).
One big exception is when you're in a one-vehicle accident involving your own fence, mailbox, or some other private property of yours. If there is no damage to the car, only to the fence or mailbox, then you're probably better off just paying for the damage out-of-pocket and not calling your insurer (which could raise your rates).
Need Help Figuring Out What to Do? Ask for Legal Help
If you were in a car accident and believe there was no damage, you'll still want to take notes and exchange information with the other driver. If you do discover an injury or vehicle damage later, you'll be prepared. The car insurance claims process is usually quite straightforward; but sometimes you'll want legal counsel. Get started with a review of your claim or situation by a motor vehicle accident attorney.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.