Your phone was buzzing and you just had to check the text. Next thing you know, you miss a light change and plow into the car in front of you. Nobody seems seriously hurt at first, so you trade information with the other driver, apologize, and soon return to the preoccupations that led to the accident.
A fender bender refers to a minor collision, so generally speaking these are resolved through auto insurance claims. Technically speaking, these are tiny accidents. But molehills can become mountains with time and you may find yourself sued for negligence due to an injury caused by your fender bender.
What Is Negligence?
When you fail to exercise the care commonly required of a driver and cause an accident that leads to an injury, you have committed a breach of your "duty of care" and can be made to pay for this negligence. Say the other driver and passengers felt fine at first but over time experience migraines or back problems that they blame on your driving. If the injuries prove extensive, your small accident could end up costing a lot in damages.
Almost all states require drivers to have insurance coverage and these matters are most often managed through insurance claims. But even if you don't pay directly to fight or settle a suit, you'll pay in other ways. To the extent that you are negligent when driving, it will be reflected in your insurance premiums.
Your Best Interests
Even small matters like tickets for infractions add up to points, and eventually higher insurance costs. The best way to avoid problems is to be a focused driver. But of course, accidents happen and when they do, often people get sued.
It is important to note, too, that insurance company lawyers do not represent you. They represent the insurer, who handles your claims, yes, but is not necessarily looking out for your best interests.
Consult With Counsel
If you or someone you know has been in an accident, consult with counsel. Many lawyers consult for free or no fee. Even the initial visit will provide important guidance.