Minor Accidents = Big Money. How To Limit Exposure, Cost & Duration

Melanie Baird
Sr. Claims Advocate
Car accidents happen every day. Even the best drivers on the road may be in an auto accident at some point in their life. Regardless of how minor an auto accident may be, it can have a big impact on you financially if not reported in a timely manner to your insurance carrier.
It's important to realize that if you’re involved in an accident, the other party involved has every right to make a claim on your insurance policy regardless of fault. You may think to yourself, there was no damage to either of our vehicles, how can they make a bodily injury claim? Personal injury attorneys are available to individuals involved in a motor vehicle accident 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And, fraud and buildup (inflation of legitimate claims) are on the rise. The cost drivers of buildup are chiropractic treatments, physical therapy, uses of alternative medicine (acupuncture), and pain management. A study by the Insurance Research Council in February 2015 found that 18% of all injury claims paid had the appearance of fraud and/or buildup which added up to $7.7 billion in excess payments to auto injury claims in 2012. The excess payments added between 13% and 17% of the total payout for personal auto injury coverages. 
The most common injury claimed in an accident is neck/cervical strain (whiplash). This is a soft-tissue injury that cannot be proven or disproven with an x-ray or CT scan. The claimant’s physician will have to document all of the symptoms that would lead to the diagnosis of strain. If the accident is determined to be your fault, your insurance carrier's adjuster will negotiate on your behalf and obtain defense counsel if necessary.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being involved in a minor accident (e.g.: fender bender in a parking lot), your best weapon is your reaction to the accident, how well you document, and getting your insurance carrier involved as soon as possible. 
Don’t Admit Guilt/Liability
Being polite and caring to the other driver can go a long way to contain the escalation of a claim. Call the police (even if the accident is on private property) and do not discuss the accident with anyone involved. Only discuss the details of the accident with the police and your insurance carrier. If you were involved in an accident while on the job, report the accident to your supervisor or the designated claim coordinator at your company as soon as possible. You will be asked by the insurance adjusters to give a statement.
Take Pictures
Most people have a cellphone with picture taking capabilities. Photos of the accident and the accident scene are vital for an adjuster to make a determination. There is no such thing as too many pictures. Take pictures of all four sides of all vehicles involved; get as many angles of the accident scene as possible including parking spaces, traffic devices, the intersection, skid marks, and debris; plus, one good picture of the entire scene. Don’t zoom in too close to the damage, so the adjuster can see where on the vehicle the damage is located.
Documentation is Key
You can also use your phone to take a picture of the other party’s driver's license, insurance card and license plates. If you have a claim form available to you from your insurance agent, insurance company or your employer, use that to document the details of the accident. Determine if there are any witnesses. If so, get their contact information and have them write out a statement if possible. If the accident was in a parking lot, determine if the parking lot has a security video recording. If they do, ask the police officer to accompany you inside to obtain a copy of the parking lot video. If the officer will not do that, let your insurance adjuster know there is video as soon as possible so they can work on obtaining the video.
How To Prepare
Actions taken immediately after an accident are critical to determining the facts and limiting costs associated with resulting claims. Overcoming the stress and anxiety created by being in an accident requires having a plan and being prepared. Without a pre-rehearsed plan it's very likely that being able to focus on getting information and taking pictures will be lost in a flood of panic and emotions. Now's the time to prepare. If your company needs help with developing procedures, crash kits or training to help prepare your drivers, please contact one of our advisors:
Justin Crain, jcrain@gibraltarrisk.com