Insurance and Finance

Getting Through A Fender Bender

By Peter Simek 2.19.18

Everybody will get into a fender bender. In fact, according to industry statistics, everyone will get into a fender bender or an auto collision about once every 17.9 years. And yet, even though Texans all but live in our cars, many people don’t know the best protocol to follow when you end up playing bumper cars with another driver on the open road.

Grant Dietiker, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent in Waco, says the rules for getting through a fender bender are simple, but they are important to protect you from rising premiums.

Stay Safe

The first rule of the road after an accident is to stay safe. Check to make sure no one in the car is hurt or in need of medical attention. If they are, call 911. Turn on your hazards. If possible, it is best to move your car off the road, particularly if you are on a busy highway. If your car is incapacitated, road flares can alert oncoming traffic.

Call the Police

Dietiker says there’s no strict threshold that determines when a collision is serious enough to call the police to obtain a police report. If you’ve just scratched bumpers with another car, a police officer may not be needed. However, if there are any injuries, however minor, you should always call the police.

“Adjusters are very good at determining fault,” Dietiker says. “So for smaller ones, you don’t need the police. It is always a plus if they are involved — that way you have another pair of eyes. And a lot of times, not everyone is getting out of the car cordial and polite. It can be good to have an extra authority figure on the scene.”

If you do obtain a police report, remember that the insurance adjusters will ultimately determine who is at fault financially — although Dietiker says the majority of the time, adjusters will go with the police report when determining who is liable.

“Even when you do get a police report, sometimes it shows equal fault,” says Dietiker. “Then everyone is back to calling their own insurance company.”

Document the Accident

It may seem like a no-brainer, but in the heat of the moment, many people forget to carefully document the damage to their vehicle as well as the other vehicle or vehicles in the accident. Walk around the involved vehicles and take notes of any visible damage to them.

“Everyone has a smartphone; pull it out and take some photos — of the damage, and of the other driver’s license and license plate,” Dietiker says.

Exchange Information

Be sure to get the other driver’s name, date of birth, driver’s license number, insurance information, and contact information, as well as the other auto’s make, model, and vehicle identification number. Take photos of the documents, if possible, or carefully write down all the pertinent information and phone numbers. Unfortunately, not everyone driving on Texas roads is insured. In fact, upward of 20 percent of Texas drivers are not insured, which means there’s a one-in-five chance that the other driver won’t be carrying a policy. If that is the case, Dietiker says, call the police immediately.

Be Careful What You Say

It is important that you never admit fault at the scene of an accident.

“Don’t admit guilt or necessarily apologize, even though that is our natural inclination to do so,” Dietiker says. “But definitely don’t admit fault because it might not be your fault. You don’t know. It’s not that you’re trying to hide something. Wait until the situation is looked at or adjusted.”

Prepare for New Premiums

If you are not at fault in a fender bender, then your insurance premiums will not be affected by an accident. However, if you are found at fault, then upon your next renewal, your rates may go up. If you are in an accident, it is always best to call your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent and discuss your options. Dietiker says it is possible that there are things you can do, like taking a defensive driving course or changing deductibles, that may offer you some insurance premium relief.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation.

© 2018 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance