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Am I Legally Obligated to Report a Minor Auto Accident?

auto accident fender benderWith the rising costs of insurance, many times, a motorist would prefer not to report an accident. This is especially true for “fender benders” where there are no injuries and the damage is minor. However, those small damages can become big complications. Without a report filed, you could find yourself footing your own bill when you aren’t at fault. If you find yourself considering not reporting an accident, there are a few considerations to make.

For starters, there are two entities in which you might report your accident, each with their own set of considerations.

Law Enforcement

Other than the facts of the accident, which state you live in is a big consideration. Most states require any accident that results in injury to be reported. However, if the damage is over a certain amount in those states, it is also required to be reported. Typically, this is when damages exceed $1,000 or $2,500. At the scene of the accident, it’s important to exchange information such as contact and insurance. Every state requires this to be done, even when the accident will presumably not be reported.

If the other driver is hesitant or uncooperative in exchanging information, law enforcement should be called. Whether they don’t have insurance or are simply refusing to cooperate, it makes better legal sense to have the authorities involved to ensure you get the necessary information. If the other driver is cooperative, there still may be a good faith dispute later about the cause of the accident. Without having an investigating officer at the scene or to see physical evidence at the scene, later issues become hearsay in nature.

Weather is another consideration. If there is inclement weather, precaution must be taken in consideration of others on the road, making it important to get police involvement. In other cases, there might be possible injuries, since injuries don’t always immediately appear. If you don’t have a report of the accident, it will be a lot harder to claim your injuries as caused by the accident.

Insurance Company

There are two big reasons a person may decide not to report to insurance:

  • The driver assumes their premium will increase.
  • The driver assumes the two motorists can work out the cost without the involvement of insurance.

However, all insurance companies in their policies have it written that any accident must be reported to the company immediately. If the accident is not immediately reported but then later has to be reported, it could lead to bigger complications and penalties down the line.

When the two motorists decide to just work things out, which is ill-advised, and damage is later revealed in the vehicle such as an engine issue that was undetectable, the motorist will likely have to file a claim. The same is true of personal injuries that don’t immediately appear. If the motorist waits a few weeks then files for those injuries or damages that later cropped up, protection or coverage may be denied due to the lapse in reporting.

The only time when it may make sense to not file a claim is when the accident is your vehicle on your property and there are no injuries with only damage to your own property. This means there is no dispute over fault and only you are the one responsible for damages. However, such cases are rare making it a good rule of thumb to always report accidents to avoid bigger issues down the line.

If you have been in an auto accident, contact our team at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers today.

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