Do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company?
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UPDATED: Mar 18, 2019
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Driving accidents are never pleasant business. At the least, they are a costly inconvenience and at worst they may take a life.
Many drivers are concerned about protecting their driving record and auto insurance rates, but it is important to weigh the information and facts about whether to report an accident or not to protect oneself from any surprises.
Reasons Why Accidents Go Unreported
In an accident with damages less than a person’s deductible amount, reporting the accident can still raise their cost of insurance, which is why many people avoid filing a report. What many do not realize is that they are contractually obligated to report any accident to their insurance company.
It is stated in most insurance policies that the policyholder must notify them of all accidents in a timely fashion, typically within 7 days.
A driver may have the misfortune to find out the accident is more costly than they originally thought, and then they might try to report it to their insurance, but it will be too late at this point. The insurance company will deny the claim because it was not reported in a timely fashion.
One thing to note is that Police do not usually report accidents to insurance companies, so calling them to the scene of an accident does not automatically mean insurance companies will find out about it.
The extent of damages or injuries is usually how many people make their decision about whether to report an accident or not. Even with minor injuries or damages, it is best for drivers to report an accident to the police and insurance company to protect themselves. Frequently, a person’s small injuries have a way of becoming more serious later.
If it is clear who is at fault, the person at fault might agree to pay directly instead of going through their insurance company, which may save them an increase on insurance. However, unless they pay immediately, in cash, the other party may end up waiting forever for that “check in the mail.”
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Why Accidents Should Be Reported
The truth is, reporting an accident will usually mean a change in premium for the driver who is at fault. Even if a driver is only partially at fault, this can mean higher risk as far as the insurance company is concerned.
If, after contacting the insurance company, a person wants to pay the claim out of their own pocket, they can avoid adding a claim to their claim history but will still have a mark on their driving record, which will increase their car insurance rates.
However, it is important to note that reporting a car crash will not affect insurance if a person is completely not at fault, but this does not mean they should not report it.
Even if both drivers agree not to report an accident, one of them may still do so later, and by the time the other party finds out, it may very well be too late for them to file a claim with their own insurance company. Just because a driver makes a verbal agreement with the other party, and then leaves the scene, does not mean they can be trusted to keep their word.
If this happens, the driver that left without reporting the accident may be charged with leaving the scene of an accident, which is a serious violation. Again, reporting the accident to the Police does not always mean they will inform a person’s insurance company.
It is safer to take a defensive stance and beware of any possible legal ramifications of accidents and what could happen if drivers do not report them.
What to do in the Case of an Accident
When accidents do happen, it is a good idea to already know what needs to be done. Everyone reacts differently under pressure, and if a driver knows what to do ahead of time, they may still be able to respond well even if their brain has gone into autopilot mode.
Here are the basics:
- Immediately put on emergency flashers and check any other occupants in the vehicle for injury. Call for medical help if necessary, then exit the car if it can be done safely. Check occupants in the other car to see if they need medical attention.
- Call the police. They will file a police report that documents everything that happened. This is critical when it comes time for insurance companies to decide who was at fault, especially if the case should go to court.
- Take pictures of the scene, with a disposable camera kept in the car, or use a cell phone.
- Drive the car out of the road, onto the shoulder, if it is safe to do so.
- Exchange names, addresses, telephone numbers and insurance information with anyone else involved in the accident.
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone. If a person admits liability it may hurt them later on.
- Note, and write down as soon as possible, the facts surrounding the accident. Interview any witnesses who saw the accident.
- If police come, stay on the scene until they tell drivers they can leave.
- Call the insurance company to report the accident and make a claim. Ask about any time limits on the claim.
- Call an attorney if any injuries or damages are extensive. Laws are different in each state but an attorney may help drivers understand applicable laws and a driver’s legal rights and obligations. An attorney may also be of help in determining who was at fault and get a person compensation for any property damage or personal injury.
Car accidents happen to even the best drivers and dealing with damages must be done in a careful fashion. Although your car insurance rates may be impacted its also a simple fact of life that is sometimes beyond our control.
Many car insurance companies offer a single accident waiver where policyholders will not be penalized from a single car accident within a certain period of time so always make sure to compare auto insurance companies and look for a policy which takes into account the possibility of an accident in the future without exposing you to automatically higher car insurance rates.