A vehicle accident is one of the most frightening situations a person can experience. This is true for all accidents, whether or not an injury occurred.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,806,000 non-injury auto accidents occurred in the United States in 2019. Non-injury accidents are the most common type of crash, accounting for 71.1% of all accidents. Non-injury accidents are often associated with low-impact collisions between two vehicles, which result in no visible damage or only minor dents or scratches.  

Even if you are involved in a non-injury accident, you still need to take measures to protect yourself and your vehicle. Our legal team has compiled an overview of the non-injury accident process:

Assess the Situation

Immediately after the vehicle accident, take a safety assessment of yourself and any passengers in your vehicle. Once you determine that everyone is OK, find a safe place (i.e., the side of the road, a parking lot) to investigate the damage to all the involved vehicles. More often than not, the other driver(s) involved will be aware of the impact and follow you to the safe spot. Once there, obtain the following information from the driver: 
Name, contact information, insurance information, license plate, and vehicle information (i.e., make, model, color). If the other driver flees, call 911 immediately. 
Take pictures of the vehicles from both close-up and far away. 
Take photos at the scene of the crash if it's safe to do so.
This information is critical when dealing with the insurance company, as it helps to identify and disprove any pre-existing vehicle damage or external contributing factor to the collision. 

Request an Incident Report

One of the main reasons insurance companies deny claims is the absence of an incident report. Insurance can argue there is not enough information to pay the claim without a neutral or "third party" record of the incident. 

If your accident occurred on a public road, call the local police (or sheriff if on the interstate). Law enforcement will advise whether you should stay with your vehicle or file a report at the police station. With minor accidents, it's relatively common to file a report at the station and be contacted hours or days after the incident. It's essential to follow up with the police station to ensure the incident report is complete and receive your copy. 

If the accident occurred on private property or in a parking lot, the police view it as a civil matter and are not likely to file a report. However, if you're in a public parking lot (i.e., grocery store), there are protocols for reporting these incidents. Once you've assessed the damages, go to the management desk and file a report. Ask if there is video surveillance and, if so, request to review and record the video for insurance purposes. 

Get An Estimate

You can choose any auto-body repair shop to get an estimate for repairing your vehicle, although your insurance may suggest their preferred repair shops. The best practice is to get two estimates to back you up when dealing with the insurance company. 

Any auto-body repair shop will thoroughly check your vehicle for damages related to the accident and provide an estimate of the cost to fix it. All estimates should be itemized to show what parts, materials, and labor go into the overall repair cost.

Contact Your Insurance Company

Your first contact with your insurance company should be the date of the accident. You can do this by calling your insurance or filing a claim online. At this time, you'll receive a claim number and the name and contact information of the adjuster assigned to your claim. 

Your insurance may offer a settlement soon after filing a claim. While it may be tempting, do not accept an offer before obtaining the incident report and repair estimate. Instead, be prepared to send all documentation (i.e., incident report, estimates, photos) to your insurance company. The information can be emailed to the adjuster or uploaded to the claims website, and then your adjuster can speak with you in real-time. 

Contact an attorney if you've worked with your insurance company and feel they're not offering you fair payment for your damages. In most circumstances, your attorney can increase the monetary amount for damages well beyond the cost of any attorney's fees. 

Settle the Claim

Whether you're working with your insurance company or employed an attorney, you'll need to complete the settlement process. 

Before any money is sent to you, you'll be asked to sign a release stating you're exempting the insurance company from any liability regarding the accident. Once signed, you should receive your settlement within two weeks. When you receive your check, review it to ensure everything's in order and for the agreed-upon amount. If working with an attorney, they will review everything for you.

At Hudgins Law Firm, our sole responsibility is to YOU. We will fight for the compensation you deserve following an auto accident. We deal with insurance companies and take them to court if necessary. To set up a FREE consultation, call us toll-free at 800-950-5534, or complete the contact form on our website. We’re the right team for you!