Should this MINOR fender-bender be reported to insurance?

Seems GrizzWife was in her car at a stop-light this morning when her car was bumped from the back. Probably no more than a 5mph “collision”.
She and the other driver pulled off into a parking lot and exchanged info. She’s got his home address from his driver’s license, plate # and insurance information. There’s almost no visible damage done to the rear bumper of my wife’s Saturn SL2; with the exception of two small dings created by the bolts from the other vehicle’s front license plate. She doesn’t think there’s any frame damage.

Now, the other fella doesn’t want this to go through his insurance because (he says) that there’s a high deductible on his policy. He just wants to pay out of pocket for the damage. My wife agreed and they went their separate ways.

But my wife wants to tell OUR insurance company about this. I think if she does that, they’ll want the other driver’s insurance info. She thinks that if she tells our insurance company that he’ll pay out of pocket, that everything will be fine.
In the mean-time, she’ll be taking the car to the Saturn dealership to have them inspect for frame-damage and to get an estimate to repair the (hopefully cosmetic) damage to the bumper.

Your thoughts?

Depending on your agent, you may want to let them know about it… but I’d want to be VERY friendly with them prior to informing them.

If the other party is willing and able to pay, I’d let them. Get the estimate, and then get the money. If they don’t pay quickly, then go through the insurance. Get the money BEFORE you have the work done.

IANAIA (Insurance Agent). This is not legal advice, blah blah blah.

Report it.

Report it. If the other driver decides to renege, you’ll have a record.

It’s odd, but I had a similar thing happen to me with my Saturn. I accidentally scraped against another car and damaged the paint. I expected him to contact me if he was planning to make repairs. He did – 15 months later. Then when I contacted my insurance, they were not happy I waited that long (I had assumed he was able to live with or wash off the marks the bumper made).

A 5-mph “love tap” causing frame damage? Isn’t that more or less an impossibility, assuming no prior frame damage or a major manufacturing defect? Otherwise, everytime you went over a speed bump or a curb, your frame would sustain damage.

I got tapped in the back this way once in bumper-to-bumper interstate traffic. I never even got out of my car to look :shrug: The other driver took my lead.

Unless she’s ASE certified, this statement should make your hair stand on end. Besides, it’s not the frame you should be worried about, it’s the bumper (NOT the bumper cover).

Consider this weak analogy. Take a carton of eggs, and whack it lightly with a banana. Carton may look perfect. Perhaps there’s a small dimple here or there, but otherwise fine. But how sure are you that everything inside is OK?

The thing is, modern bumper covers are just pretty plastic shells for the actual bumper. No more chrome on the outside, all the workings of the bumper are wrapped up. Think Styrofoam, think collapsible plastic honeycombs, think crumple zones. The outside may come right back to shape (you want it to do so in small hits, possibly like what you’re talking about, possibly not), but that says nothing about whether or not the inside did its job. Next collision, even a smaller one, could send the force straight into places it’s not supposed to go.

My suggestion: before deciding that it is No Big Deal and there is no damage (again, frame might be fine, but there’s no telling what shape the actual bumper is in), have a trained mechanic take off the cover and do an inspection. Some places will even do it for free (my shop would have), some may charge you for an hour or so of labor. If they charge, see if the guy will pay (but do try and find a place that will do it as a courtesy first). If he balks, you have an idea what you can expect should something really be wrong.


Report it. I work for Nationwide Insurance in the Claims Dept and agree with RealityChuck it’s good to have an official paper trail. But don’t report it to your insurance company, report it to his! If you report it to your insurance company they will handle under Collision (which is subject to a deductible) then they will subrogate against his company and “attempt” to get their money back. They can also “attempt” to get your deductible $$ back, but are not always succesful with that.

As to the part about his insurance having a high deductible, that’s completely irrelevant. If this were to be paid under his insurance policy it would go under his Property Damage Liability coverage which doesn’t carry a deductible. He only has to shell out a deductible on the damages to his own car.

You can report it to your company but in my state you have up to a year to file a claim on your own policy.

In many states if this guy is a dead beat, or has not insurance in force when you file under your collision coverage you are subject to your 100 to 500 or whatever dollar deductible. So if the damage is very minor you would not have any coverage under your own policy anyway.

If there are no medical bills involved I would give the guy one chance to make it good.
Get an estimate you are comfortable with, figure in an amount for a rental car for the day or so it will take to get it fixed and say “here you are I need a check today.” Any balking or hesitation on his part just call his insurance company and say “hey your guy hit me what do I do?”

They will fix you up and charge their customer with a negligent accident. This could double his rates depending on his driving record. There is no deductible for him involving in liable payout in most states.

But remember if you do this you are doing him a favor; take no crap and no excuses.

Good luck

How is life at Nationwide claims these days? :slight_smile: I was in claims there until 2002.
Anyway, to the OP. Personally I would take the car in for an estimate and then give the other driver two weeks to make good on his offer. If you do not have cash in hand on the 14th day, you report it to his insurance.

Things are good when you’re in the new Claims Quality Assurance department! I am very glad to be out of handling claims and into a reviewer-type role. Much less stressful!

I am set to learn something here: why are there so many suggestions to report this to any insurance company? Unless the description of the accident is way off (<<probably no more than a 5mph “collision”>>), shouldn’t this be more or less summarily dismissed by all parties involved? Have a look at the bumpers just to be sure, come to what seems to be the obvious conclusion, and drive away?

Rhythmdvl nailed it. Your wife is not qualified to determine the extent of the damage. Get an estimate from a reputable local body shop.

In some states, if the damage is over $X you have to file a report with the DMV.

bordelond not at all, there is very large amount of energy in a 5 mph collision. also that 5 could have been 6,7 or even 10 mph.

There’s no harm in reporting this. If you just leave it and forget it then at some later point if you ever turn in a collision claim that has rear-end damage or a total loss claim your insurance company could call these 2 small dings as prior damage. They would then take roughly 50% of the cost to repair these 2 small dings and deduct that from your settlement. Even if they did do this the impact would be insignificant. But hey lets face it, the other guy hit your wife. Your wife did nothing wrong and you should have no financial impact, albeit small, from this encounter.

Does the crumple zone that constitute a so-called “5 mph bumper” make a difference here? Also, the OP doesn’t say, but if his wife’s car was able to roll forward after the tap, such energy should have been displaced. It seems logical that she probably kept the brake applied, however.

Your response suggests to me that speed bumps and curbs can potentially damage a car fairly seriously in the course of what would be considered normal driving. Now then, everyone knows that going over a curb/speed bump at 30 mph is a bad idea … but is going over them at 10 mph not much better? Should a full stop precede every procession over a curb or speed bump, just to be sure?

I ask these questions in earnest. For all I know, I may have been unknowingly screwing up my vehicles in the course of ordinary driving for 20 years. My personal litmus test for general “car shakeups” (potholes, speed bumps, curbs, love taps from other motorists) has always been “how did I experience the shakeup”? And then secondarily" “what damage can I see?” For instance, I’ve backed into poles in parking lots going at a crawl … I only felt a slight sensation. It would’ve never occured to me to in a million years to have the car checked out after such an event.

Ohio DMV accident reporting requirements: (scroll to bottom)
It appears Ohio’s cutoff is just $400.00 in prop. damage, that’s very low. I would never agree to bypassing insurance companies. This seems to be a common practice today and I cannot understand why people agree to it.
In this situation, I think I’d get an estimate of damages, call the guy and get payment within a day or two, if he doesn’t pay promptly, report it to the state DMV and the insurance co.

My understanding has always been that your own insurance rates go up anytime you make a claim against someone else’s insurance. The reverse is, of course, common knowledge – you hit someone, your insurance company pays, your rates go up.

Maybe this varies state to state, I dunno.

Your rates do not go up when you make a claim under someone else’s insurance policy. Their rates go up. Only claims under your policy increase your rates. And well other things like DUIs, speeding tickets, etc.

People avoid reporting it because if they don’t they end up with jacked up rates the next time they turn around. These days, the insurance company will keep track not only of the actual reported accidents, but also the inquiries as to potential coverage. I have known people here in Ohio who faced significant rate increases (or outright dropping of the policy) for having had too many such seemingly insignificant accidents reported.

Also, one should keep in mind that, while the original post seems to indicate a lack of fault on the part of Ms. Grizz, it isn’t neccessarily true that she isn’t liable. In the absence of full facts, I as an attorney would be leary of advising what should or should not be done in a given situation.

Which is not to say that I’d recommend keeping quiet. In general, where potential significant cost is involved in repair, one should report. But don’t just report as a reflex reaction.

Maybe. First off there are several different bumper standards out there. IIRC there are 2.5 mph bumpers, with no damage, and 2.5 mph bumpers with no damage to any safety systems, and 5mph bumpers which I believe allowed for body damage but no damage to safety systems, such as taillights and headlight. The other problem here is that we don’t know the exact speed of impact. I think he was going 5 mph, is not a very accurate measurement. It is fairly well known through the industry that a 5 mph bumper (and to a lesser degree a 2.5 mph bumper) lowers the repair cost in a low speed collision, but raises the cost in a higher speed collision. That is because those 5 mph bumpers required large support members, that if damaged, were expensive to replace.

Hitting a speed bump is nothing like hitting the car in front of you. While at first it might seem to be the same it isn’t. First off the car is designed to go over bumps without damage. Not so hitting the guy in front of you.
Secondly when you hit the guy in front of you you have the entire weight of the car applying force to the front bumper of your car and the rear bumper of his car. Ouch! When you hit a speed bump, you only have to lift the weight applied to that wheel, and springs and shocks do a very good job of absorbing that energy. Also when talking about a hit, the area and force both come into play. To illustrate this, if I put my palm out and push you with about 25 lbs of force you will suffer no injury. On the other hand, if I were holding a butcher knife with its point toward you, a 25 lb. push could be fatal. A 5 mph hit into a pole is much more likely to do damage than backing squarely into a brick wall.

I hope this answers your questions.

My .02

Follow the advice of the dopers suggesting get an estimate or two from local shops, and present him with the bill, get a reasonable timeframe for payment, and get your car fixed.

Insurance is about protecting you from problems we cannot afford, if a repair is $450 and that is no big deal to him to pay out of pocket, let him.