Motor Vehicle Accidents Law

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Should I Report a Minor Car Accident?

Most people will be in a car accident at some point in their lives. Fortunately for most of us, this will be some kind of minor fender bender. Often it will be a low-speed collision in a parking lot or a scrape in heavy traffic. While these accidents can be costly, and not without the risk of injury, the extent of the damage can often lead people to ask whether they should even report the incident at all.

For the answer, you need to really ask two questions – “should I report the accident to the police?” and “should I tell my insurance company?” The answer to both will depend on how severe the accident was, and whether anybody suffered injuries or property damage.

The police

When an accident happens, people are often unsure whether the police need to be called. They might worry they will be wasting police time or be concerned that the process will take too long. The laws on when you must call the police after a car accident vary between states. There is usually a requirement to call whenever someone is injured, where there is significant property damage, and when the accident is causing a hazard to other traffic.

For minor accidents, it is still often preferable to call the police, explain the situation, and find out whether they should attend. While one or both drivers might be keen to privately agree how to handle the accident, there might be problems later if someone realizes they have delayed injuries, or that their car has more damage than it appeared.

A police report from the scene will make it easier for you or your attorney to prove the details of the accident if an insurance claim is made.

Do I need a police report of the accident?

If the police do not come to the accident scene, it is sensible to file a police report at a police station. This will include the relevant details of the accident, including the parties involved, and will provide a record of the accident if an insurance claim for damages is later filed. If the police did attend the accident, you should make sure you obtain a copy of the report, either personally or via your attorney.

Your insurance company

In general, insurance companies require policy holders to always inform them about any car accidents. Often, people will want to avoid this because they think their insurance premiums will go up or because they think the cost of repairs will be less than their insurance deductible.

It is often better to inform your insurance company when another driver is involved, even when the parties believe they can sort it out themselves. Injuries and property damage are not always obvious. It could be very problematic if the other driver later claims they suffered whiplash or require expensive repairs, and eventually makes a claim on your insurance. Your insurance company could question why the accident was not reported at the time, and could penalize or even refuse any claim.