What To Do After A Minor Car Accident: A Guide For Drivers

Sarah Edwards

Contributor

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.

Editor

Read in 4 mins

In most states, your legal duties differ depending on the severity of a car accident. For example, crashes that cause injury or death usually have greater reporting requirements, and those that only cause property damage will have lower requirements.

Also, the steps you take after a minor or serious crash could affect your legal rights. Taking the right actions could preserve your injury claims and smooth the path for dealing with insurers and at-fault drivers.

What to Do After a Minor Car Accident

Generally, crash reports do not use the term minor. Instead, they categorize crashes according to the most severe outcome they produce. Specifically, the terms used to classify crashes include:

  • Fatal
  • Non-fatal injury
  • Property damage only

What you do after a minor car crash depends on your definition of “minor.” A minor car accident could have several meanings, such as:

  • Non-fatal and non-incapacitating injury
  • Property damage-only
  • Property damage-only valued at less than a certain amount

In all states, you must stop at the accident scene after any crash. If you fail to do so, you might face charges for a hit-and-run, also called “leaving the scene of an accident.” The severity of the punishment for this criminal violation can vary depending on the state and the outcome of the crash.

Your steps after stopping depend not on whether the damage or injuries are minor. Instead, they depend on whether the crash only causes damage or it also causes injuries. Thus, you can divide the possible situations into the following three scenarios:

What to Do When You Have a Minor Car Accident With Injuries

In most states, you must render assistance to anyone who has suffered car crash injuries. This legal duty includes driving them to a hospital if necessary. When a crash causes minor injuries, you and the other people involved in the crash might only need first aid to bandage cuts and abrasions.

Most states also require drivers to report injury crashes to the police. The duty to report does not depend on the severity of the injuries. You must report even minor injury crashes so EMTs can evaluate the injuries and the police can investigate the accident.

You should cooperate with the investigating officers so they can produce a complete crash report with input from all drivers involved. You should also exchange insurance information with the other driver. These duties apply regardless of fault. In other words, what to do after a minor car accident, not your fault, will be the same as what to do for a crash that was your fault.

What to Do After a Minor Car Accident With Damage

States have different regulations for how you should respond after a crash that causes damage. You must always stop at the accident scene. However, many states do not make you contact the police for property-damage-only crashes. These states often ask drivers to self-report to the DMV to provide insurance information for everyone involved.

Many other states set a monetary threshold for reporting a crash. For example, in Wyoming, drivers only need to report property-damage-only crashes that cause more than $1,000 in damage or disable a vehicle. Drivers involved in crashes below the threshold should still exchange insurance information. However, they do not need to contact the police.

Many drivers wonder, “Do I have to report a minor car accident to my insurance?” You should review your auto insurance policy to determine your contractual obligations around reporting crashes. Most policies require you to report a collision even if:

  • You did not cause it
  • You do not intend to file a claim
  • The drivers agreed to pay out-of-pocket for any repairs

Insurers do this for a few reasons. First, they need to know your crash history to set your insurance premiums. Even if you do not file a claim, a crash will reflect your propensity to collide with other vehicles.

Second, your insurer needs to know about the crash in case someone discovers or develops an injury. Your insurer can gather that information before you speak to the other driver’s insurer.

What to Do In a Minor Car Accident With No Damage

You should still stop and exchange information after a crash with no damage. You might find hidden damage to your vehicle and need the other driver’s information to file an insurance claim. Worse yet, you may discover you suffered an injury and need the information for an injury case. You do not need to contact the police.

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Learn More About Your Rights After a Minor Car Accident

Even minor car accidents can cost thousands of dollars in property damage and even injure you. If you were involved in a minor crash and need to either pursue compensation or defend yourself from legal claims, you should speak to an experienced lawyer to learn about your options.

ConsumerShield helps people facing legal issues. We provide educational resources and connect you with a lawyer who can provide legal advice and representation. Fill out our Contact Form for your free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • It depends on your state. Generally, you will call the police after a minor crash that causes injuries. Your duty to call the police after a damage-only crash depends on your state’s laws.

  • Your policy probably provides the answer to this question. Broadly, policies typically require all collisions regardless of whether you intend to file a claim.

  • Your instincts might tell you to apologize. However, an apology could be construed as an admission of responsibility for the crash, opening you to legal claims.

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