What to do on the periphery of an automobile collision?
December 9, 2014 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday I was involved in the first automobile collision I have ever been involved in, and am unsure what the best way to proceed is. The pickup truck behind me was rear-ended on the interstate, resulting in it being pushed into my own vehicle. My car is practically undamaged, and I don't think I want to go through the process of filing a claim. Is this a bad idea? More details inside.

The car is 12 years old, and already had some dents/bruises. The collision yesterday appeared to result in only a scuffed bumper, and I've driven the car about 70 miles since then without any issue.

The accident occurred in California, which requires reporting any accident that results in more than $750 of property damage (no one was injured in this case, thankfully). I assume the truck and the car that rear-ended the truck have more than this threshold. Does anyone have any idea what my obligations are in this case? Furthermore, it's unclear how to even file a report with the CA DMV for a collision involving more than two vehicles -- do I just attach an extra page of information to the standard form?

And lastly -- does anyone know what the proper process is for reporting this to my insurer (GEICO), without filing a claim? I'm having a lot of difficulty finding information about this on their website.
posted by Bahro to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I'd have a body shop look at your car and assess the damage. That's your only interest here. If it's significant, file a claim with your own insurance company (they'll handle it). If it's minimal, as you suspect, forget it completely. If your participation is required -- unlikely -- others will alert you.
posted by LonnieK at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

This did happen to me--
In very slow traffic…with no damage to my vehicle.
There was damage to the car behind me [which hit me first];
and there was damage to the car behind HIM.
I did provide my info to the others but I told them that I had no damage.

The guy's insurance called me and asked me what happened.
The girl's insurance called me and asked me what happened.
I didn't file any claims and so I don't think I contacted my insurer at all.
That was the end of it.
posted by calgirl at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2014

Make sure you file the accident report with the DMV!
posted by monotreme at 8:08 PM on December 9, 2014

In this situation you are not a fault and would not have to pay any deductible for repairs. I do not see any harm in contacting GEICO and going through their claims process to have your car checked out. That is what you pay insurance premiums for. You never know what damage may be lurking under the bumper cover.
posted by The Architect at 8:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

You need to at least tell your insurance company - you don't have to file a claim per se with damages, but they should know and get your statement about what happens. You also should have a body shop check out the car just in case.
posted by radioamy at 11:47 PM on December 9, 2014

Ahhhh. California!

Do you have uninsured motorist insurance? The info from all vehicles involved??

You don't say the make/ model/mileage on your 12 year old car.

Is the dent or scuff visible? Or easily rubbed out with some detailing?

The insured responsible is the one who contacted you car - not the one who hit him - that's his problem under the law - the guy who bumped you SHOULD have been far enough away that if he was hit, he would not hit you. That's how insurance companies see this.

Something like 40% of drivers in California are uninsured, or underinsured. Mostly uninsured. This is why YOU carry adequate insurance.


For non-structural damage I was not planning to collect on, I would do nothing.

If I had uninsured driver coverage (I think you do in CA) I might have the car evaluated to make sure no structural damage occurred.

Here's the rub...

You want to know if the frame is bent for your own safety. At 12 years, no matter the mileage, an insurer might total your vehicle. Even if you keep it, that dings your resale value (car fax!) and your insurer or theirs might not pay out on the current value unless you surrender the vehicle to them.

I know a lot about this stuff.

My 14 year old Jeep is not exactly as tank-like as a 25 year old Mercedes Sedan, but it is close. If I only got a scuff on my bumper, I might ignore it. Ditto any pick-up or SUV

If similar happened to a 12 year old Acura, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Hyundai, Volkswagen, or similar compact or sedan - I would have it checked out.

These are your variables and parameters. Make the best choice for you.
posted by jbenben at 1:12 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the components of bumpers is Styrofoam. It's meant to absorb a shock one time. Bumpers are disposable. A professional should assess if you need to replace it.

I would fill out the SR1 just to be safe.

Then call Geico and file a claim, letting them know that there's no serious damage, but you're concerned that you may need a new bumper. Give them all the other info you have.

You're not at fault, you pay Geico to run this interference for you, let them do their job.

It's absolutely NO big deal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2014

Yeah, Nthing "get it looked at" even if it just looks like a scuffed bumper. The bumpers of today aren't the giant chrome-plated bull guards of days past, they're actually integral to your vehicle's collision safety, and what looks like superficial damage could hurt you down the road.

You weren't at fault. You shouldn't end up needing to pay for anything (assuming the other drivers were insured or you have uninsured motorist protection). For your own future peace of mind, call Geico, let them know what's happened, and ask them how they'd like you to proceed. Honestly "filing a claim" isn't all that hard. I'm with State Farm, but the handful of times I've had to do it it's been as simple as 5 minutes filling out a form on their website then waiting for an adjuster to call me.

You pay your insurance company to handle these things for you. It's one thing they're actually pretty good at. Call them and let them do it, it really ain't no big thing.

(I won't address your other obligations as a motorist under California state law, as I have no idea about that.)
posted by jammer at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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