Car Accident Law

Should I Report a Car Accident to My Insurance?

Key Takeaways

  • Always report a car accident to your insurance, even if it seems minor, to avoid problems later.
  • If there’s serious damage or injuries, you might need a lawyer to help get a fair settlement from insurance.
  • State laws vary, so check if you need to report the accident to the police or file an accident report.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with serious injuries or property damage, you should report the accident to your insurance company. Reporting the accident to your auto insurance provider will start the claims process.

Many states also have a legal requirement to report the accident to the police. There could be serious consequences for failing to report the incident. Reporting requirements are different in every state. For legal advice about what you need to do for a car accident claim, talk to an auto accident attorney in your state.

When Do You Need To Report a Car Accident?

Even after driving for years, many drivers aren’t exactly sure what to do after a minor car accident. For a major accident, you should call 911 for any medical emergencies. You may also be required to call the police if there is major property damage or if the other driver leaves the scene of the accident (hit-and-run).

In many states, there is no requirement to call the police after a fender bender or a single-car collision in a parking lot. Even if you do call law enforcement, a police officer may not come out to take a police report. Depending on state law, you may still be required to file your own accident report with the state.

To report the accident, you may have to report the details of the accident. Make sure you collect contact information from anyone else involved in the accident, including:

  • Insurance information and policy numbers
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Cell phone numbers of any witnesses

Check your insurance policy to see what you are supposed to do after a car accident. Many insurance carriers require immediate reporting of any accident. Even if you are not making a car insurance claim, your own insurance company may require reporting the accident.

Does the Insurance Company Need to Know About the Car Crash?

In a minor collision, drivers often make a quick assessment of vehicle damage and agree not to involve their insurance companies. An agreement made on the side of the road might be the simplest option, but it may create problems down the road. The other driver may later report the accident and say whatever they want.

People might want to avoid involving their insurance companies for several reasons, including:

  • Their insurance premiums will go up
  • Avoid the hassle of a lengthy claim
  • Damages can be repaired out-of-pocket for less than the deductible

But you may later realize that the minor accident was more major than you thought if you have vehicle damage or suffer neck or back pain. If you report the accident later, your insurance company may suspect a false claim and refuse insurance coverage if you waited too long to report the accident.

Check with your insurance policy to see what you are required to report and when. You may still be required to report an accident even if you aren’t going to make a claim. State law may also require reporting the accident if there is damage over a specific value.

What If the Accident Isn’t My Fault?

It can be hard to determine fault at the scene of an accident. The insurance adjusters will generally determine which motorist is at fault for the accident. If your accident claim goes to court, a jury may decide who was to blame for the accident. In fault states, the at-fault driver is generally liable for damages in a car accident.

In many car accidents, both drivers are found to be partly at fault. This can affect who can recover damages and how much you can get to pay your medical bills.

Reporting the Accident Can Help With Vehicle Damages

People often also underestimate the extent of the damage to their vehicles. A small bodywork scratch might be hiding greater chassis damage. A dinged fender might require an expensive replacement. There is research suggests that even low-speed collisions can produce thousands of dollars of vehicle damage, even when the car appears unharmed.

When situations like these occur, it can be a problem to come to your insurance company much later to make a claim. If you didn’t report the incident to the police, there may be no record of the accident even happening. Your insurance may doubt your story or even deny your coverage if you didn’t report the accident at the time of the accident. This could be a costly battle if you are facing an expensive medical expense claim from the other driver’s insurance company.

How Can a Lawyer Help With an Auto Accident Claim?

For minor car accidents, you may not need a lawyer. However, if there is significant vehicle damage or you suffered serious injuries, an attorney can help. The car insurance company may want to quickly settle your claim. Before you accept a settlement, make sure you understand your legal rights.

An attorney can negotiate a fair settlement to make sure you are protected. Your auto accident lawyer can also take your claim to court if the insurance company or at-fault driver doesn’t want to pay up for your injuries.

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