Deals and dents: Fender benders numbers rise on Black Friday, according to insurance experts

CLEVELAND - Black Friday shoppers are at risk of going home with dinged and dented cars when they go to buy great bargains.

The number of car accident claims rose 25 percent on Black Friday in 2011, according to Tricia Griffith, the Claims Group President at Progressive Insurance.

Griffith said minor accidents in parking lots are to blame for most of the increase in the number of claims.

"It really is a parking lot problem in terms of way more cars than normal. People are anxious, and they're just trying to get in and get those deals," she said.

NewsChannel5's investigators obtained records from local police departments. We found four out of 13 accidents reported on private property in Mentor last Black Friday occurred in parking lots, including two at Great Lakes Mall and one at a nearby Best Buy parking lot.

"In the retail areas, in the parking lots... We do see an increase in accidents on Black Friday," said Mentor Police Sgt. Mike Majernik. "We get accidents, typically, at starting at two or three in the morning, where it's normally quiet. You'll see almost a rush hour type flow in these shopping centers," he said.

It's the same deal in Strongsville.

"It's gonna get crazy," said Strongsville Police Sgt. Lee Cosgrove. "We get a lot of traffic coming into town, particularly on Black Friday."

Cosgrove said there was a total of five accidents reported in the parking lot of SouthPark Mall on Black Friday during 2010 and 2011. 

What's worse, Cosgrove said drivers often fail to leave a note when they hit another car. 

"It's just un-courteous and rude. If you hit someone's car, leave a note, put your name on it, put your phone number on it," Cosgrove said.

Griffith said the types of accidents reported on Black Friday vary greatly.

"We see a couple of different claims. A lot where two people are backing out together. Some where people are in a rush and they hit parked cars. People rear-ending people... And then some were people break into cars," she said.

To avoid a Black Friday fender bender, Griffith said drivers should avoid cutting off other drivers or speeding to snag a preferred parking spot. They also take extra care when they back out of a parking spot. The most important thing, she said, is for drivers to avoid letting the stress of holiday shopping get to them.

"Be patient. Be safe," said Griffith.

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