A minor accident, sometimes referred to as a fender bender, can occur frequently. Many drivers are tempted not to report the accident to their insurance company if property damage seems insignificant, and no injuries are apparent. Often they feel that reporting minor collisions will cause their insurance rates to rise, and they believe they are better off working out a settlement themselves with the other driver. However, not reporting even a minor accident is almost always a mistake.
State law typically specifies that drivers must report most accidents to a law enforcement agency. Your insurance carrier also almost always requires that you report every accident.
Here are the consequences of failing to contact your insurance company after a car crash.
Even a minor accident can result in a personal injury claim
Sometimes injuries occur in a minor car accident, and these injuries may not necessarily be immediately apparent at the scene. The adrenaline rush after a car accident sometimes masks the pain of an injury. Soft tissue injuries often take several days to become evident. Head and back injuries are also slow to show symptoms while often being serious.
You or the other driver could incur substantial medical bills for soft tissue, head, or back injury. If you have a high deductible or copay on your health insurance, you could face significant financial difficulties. Reporting an accident to your insurance company will help you with these medical expenses.
The other driver may also experience injury symptoms after they’ve left the scene. Even if they agree at the scene not to report the accident, the other driver may change their mind if they later realize they were injured, especially if they also have medical bills. If the other driver decides to file an insurance claim, your own insurance provider will find out about the accident from the other driver’s insurance company. The insurance adjuster will be unhappy that you didn’t promptly report the accident, and the insurance company may deny coverage or cancel your insurance policy.
The cost of repairs in a minor car accident can be high
Often, drivers think they can cover the property damages from a minor accident themselves without filing a car insurance claim. However, car repairs often appear worse once you get the car home.
Even a small dent can be costly to fix. According to the National Safety Council, the average car accident with no injuries has $4,700 in property damage. For many, coming up with that much money is difficult and more costly than any increase in insurance premiums.
Even if the car seems fine, it may have damage to the engine bolts or parts. Taking the car to a repair shop immediately after the accident is essential, even if it appears unscathed.
Even if you decide you can cover the costs of repairing your car out of your own pocket, the other driver may not once they realize the true extent of the damage. They may file a claim for financial compensation with their insurance company, especially if they think you caused the accident.
When your insurance company hears about the claim, it may deny it because you failed to report the accident. Even if your insurance company is inclined to pay the claim, you have placed yourself at a disadvantage by waiting so long to report the accident. If you and the other driver disagree on how the accident occurred, you may not have any evidence to support your claim. If you had planned to file a claim from the beginning, you would have gotten the names and phone numbers of the witnesses, photographed the scene, and filed a police report.
The insurance provider may deny you coverage or cancel the policy
Insurance policies are contracts between you and your insurance company. The policies almost always require you to report an auto accident, no matter how minor and whether or not you plan to file a claim.
If your insurance company discovers that you have breached the contract by not reporting your minor car accident, they can deny you coverage or cancel the policy. If the insurance company cancels your policy, you may have difficulty finding another car insurance company to accept you. Your car insurance company’s ability to discover unreported minor accidents may surprise you. They can find out from a police report or the other driver’s insurer.
Smart drivers follow all the proper steps after every car accident
If you are involved in a car crash, you should always follow the appropriate steps.
- Stay calm and orient yourself.
- Exchange contact information, insurance company information, and driver’s license information with everyone involved.
- Never admit fault, even if you think the accident happened because of something you did wrong.
- Use your cell phone camera to photograph the damage to each vehicle and the accident scene.
- File a police report. Some states only require you to report an accident with injuries or property damage over a certain threshold, such as $500. However, the property damage is almost always more significant than you realize. Also, reporting the accident to authorities will generate an accident report. The report may be critical in supporting you in a personal injury case.
- Seek medical attention immediately, even if you feel OK. If you experience symptoms after leaving the doctor’s office, call the doctor and let them know. Follow all the doctor’s recommendations and keep all medical appointments. Failing to seek medical attention or to keep medical appointments looks suspicious to insurance adjusters. If you file a claim, the insurance company may use the lack of medical attention as a reason to deny your claim.
- Report the accident to your insurance company. If you or another person were injured in the accident, you also would want to contact a car accident lawyer. The lawyer will then contact your insurance company. The lawyer will help preserve your rights during the claims process. Most car accident lawyers offer a free consultation to let you know your case’s potential risks and value.
- Take your vehicle to a repair shop for a checkup.
One type of accident may be an exception
One type of car accident may be an exception to the rule of always reporting a car accident. The exception is a single-car accident involving only your vehicle, which occurred on your private property and where you were the only person in the car. Suppose the only result of the car accident was property damage to your own property, and you’re sure you aren’t injured. In that case, you are probably safe not reporting the accident to your insurance company. An example might be your backing your car into your garage door.
1-800Ask-Gary can refer you to medical professionals and lawyers
1-800-Ask-Gary is a free car accident referral hotline. Compassionate operators are available 24 hours a day to refer you to doctors and lawyers who are experienced in helping those involved in car crashes. The doctors can treat your injuries, and the lawyers can help you through the insurance company claim process.
1-800Ask-Gary provides referrals to professionals in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico.