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If an accident is severe and involves serious property damage or injuries, there is no question that you should inform your insurance company. Your insurance policy will state that reporting an accident is a requirement and you could well need the protection of your coverage. Many states will also have a legal requirement that you inform law enforcement, and there could be serious consequences for failing to report the incident.
However, for more minor accidents – such as a low-speed fender bender or a single car collision with a garden fence – many people are less sure whether it is worth the time and effort to still get their insurance company involved.
In a minor collision, drivers often make a quick assessment of vehicle damage and their own apparent lack of injuries, and agree not to involve their insurance companies. An agreement made on the side of the road might seem agreeable, but it can create bigger issues later.
People might want to avoid involving their insurance companies for a number of reasons, including:
While these reasons are understandable, they do not always make good financial or legal sense. Insurance premiums do not always go up after a claim, while repairs paid out of pocket often end up costing much more than an insurance deductible. Trying to avoid the hassle of a claim might be a very short-sighted approach that ignores bigger hassles if a claim later needs to be made.
One important reason to involve your insurer is that some car accident injuries do not appear immediately. Soft-tissue injuries such as whiplash often appear in the days and weeks after an accident, meaning that a party may belatedly realize they are facing expensive medical treatment.
In a worse-case scenario, you might suffer whiplash injuries in the days after a car accident, but have failed to even gather the basic details of the other driver because you both agreed there was no harm done.
People often also underestimate the extent of the damage their vehicles have sustained. A small bodywork scratch might be hiding greater chassis damage, while a dinged fender might require an expensive replacement. In fact, there is a lot of research to suggest 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 problematic to return to your insurance company much later to make a claim. If you have also not reported the incident to the police, there may be no record of the accident even happening. Your insurance may doubt your story, penalize you for reporting the incident late, or even deny your coverage altogether. This could be particularly challenging if you are facing a heavy medical expenses claim from the other party.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified auto accident lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local auto accident attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.