Howard R. Sanders, Esq.
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Is it a fender-bender — or a carjacking?

You are driving in New York City when suddenly the car behind yours strikes your bumper. Nobody likes a fender-bender, of course. But could something more nefarious be afoot?

Carjackings sometimes start out as minor rear-end collisions. Law-abiding people who get involved in accidents typically stop to survey the damage, make sure there are no injuries and exchange insurance information.

But those with criminal intent can use a fender-bender to steal the car and any valuables the driver may have on them.

It's a tactic known as "the bump and rob," and it can be very dangerous. As soon as the victim emerges from the bumped vehicle, an accomplice of the other driver pulls a weapon and robs the victim.

At this point, it is safer to surrender your vehicle and any possessions. Most crime experts advise against ever going along with your attackers to a secondary location at gunpoint. Those scenarios typically do not end well for the victims.

What should you do in a fender-bender?

After the impact, assess the situation with your windows rolled up. Is this a safe location to survey the damage? Maintaining situational awareness at all times is important.

If you have any indication that the situation could become dangerous (including often-overlooked "gut feelings"), don't stop and get out. Instead, drive to a safe location like a firehouse or police station to examine any vehicle damage.

You also should call the police, who will respond and write the report you will need to submit to the at-fault driver's insurance company. Then, you can file a claim for damages for any injuries that you suffered in the fender-bender.

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