If you have been involved in a very minor car accident, such as a parking lot accident, you may wonder if you can move forward without reporting the crash and dealing with the related paperwork. Some accidents may cause vehicle damage but no injuries to anyone involved. Different states have different rules governing whether an accident needs to be reported to law enforcement. However, virtually every insurance policy requires a driver to report any accident—no matter how minor—to the insurance company.
Reporting to Law Enforcement
Whether you need to report an accident to law enforcement often depends on whether it resulted in injuries. If the collision caused only property damage, you may not need to report it at all. In some states, you may need to report an accident that caused only property damage if the damage is worth more than a certain amount, such as $1,000 or $2,500.
Police involvement may help secure the contact and insurance information of an uncooperative driver and document evidence of fault.
Getting law enforcement involved can be helpful in certain cases, even if you technically do not need to report the accident. Drivers are expected to stop at the scene of an accident so that they can exchange contact information and insurance information. If a driver does not do this, or if you suspect that they are uninsured, law enforcement can help you track down the driver or encourage them to cooperate. Also, the police report that law enforcement generates from the accident may provide vital information in determining who was at fault. They can investigate the scene and record physical evidence as well as the observations of witnesses. While you may think that you will not need to file a claim because there were no injuries, certain types of injuries may arise later for which you may want to seek compensation.
Law enforcement sometimes will not respond to accidents that do not involve injuries during emergency situations caused by weather conditions. You can still complete an accident report form with the other driver and mail it to the appropriate agency. Gas stations and roadside stores may provide these forms.
Reporting to Insurers
Drivers in accidents that do not cause injuries often feel reluctant to contact the insurer about them. They may feel that the hassle of filling out the paperwork is unnecessary, and they may be concerned that their premiums will increase. Failing to fill out a report for your insurer is a serious mistake.
If you eventually find out that your injuries were more severe than you realized, or if the other driver later alleges injuries or significant vehicle damage, you may not be able to get coverage through your insurer. It likely will point out that you did not report the accident, so it may not need to honor certain provisions in the policy. If the costs of the accident turn out to be substantial, you may end up paying more than you would have through increased premiums.
Filing a Claim
A driver is not required to file a claim when they report an accident to their insurer. However, reporting the accident may preserve the driver’s right to coverage at a later date.
There are some rare situations in which no dispute could arise out of an accident. Perhaps you bumped a building on your property or a piece of equipment that you own. If the only damage affects property that you own, and nobody is injured, you might not face repercussions for not reporting the accident. In general, though, filling out a report is a prudent (and usually legally required) step to take.