The majority of car accidents are minor fender benders that don’t involve personal injuries. These collisions occur in parking lots when cars back out from spaces or at intersections when drivers try to stop too late and tap the rear bumper of the car in front of them.
These accidents generally don’t injure passengers or drivers, but they do cause minor property damage like dented bumpers or fenders or paint scratches. In these common situations, many drivers wonder whether to report the accident to law enforcement and/or insurers. Many drivers also wonder whether to seek the advice of a personal injury attorney following an accident.
The answer to this question depends in large part on not only the facts and circumstances of the accident, but also on the state in which it occurs. Many states require reports of all accidents in which injury occurs. For accidents involving only property damage, some states still require reports if the damage cost exceeds a certain amount, typically $1,000 to $2,500. In Louisiana, drivers must report accidents to local police if the accident occurred within an incorporated area, any accident that results in injury to a person, or in damage valued at more than $500.
Regardless of whether the accident is reported to law enforcement, all drivers should exchange contact and insurance information after a collision. All states require drivers to exchange this information when involved in accidents. If a driver is uncooperative or there is reason to believe the driver has no insurance, law enforcement can help obtain the information. Depending on the location, the law enforcement officer might be from the municipal police, the county sheriff, or the state highway patrol.
Even if all drivers cooperate, there might be a dispute in good faith about the cause of the accident. In that case, law enforcement assistance is also a good idea as it gives the investigating officer an opportunity to record interviews with drivers and witnesses to describe the presence of skid marks, debris, and other physical evidence at the scene.
Another reason to contact law enforcement at the time of the accident is because of possible injuries not apparent at the accident scene. Drivers might believe they are uninjured and may say as much to other drivers, but some injuries do not become apparent until days or weeks following the accident. If a driver does not contact law enforcement immediately to report the accident and later discovers actual injury, the driver at fault might argue that the accident never in fact occurred. Without a law enforcement investigation of the accident, resolution of the issue may depend on the outcome of a swearing contest between the drivers.
If the accident occurs during inclement weather, a caller to 911 or local law enforcement might be instructed that, if there are no personal injuries, local law enforcement personnel cannot respond to the accident scene due to other emergencies caused by the weather conditions. In that situation, nearby convenience stores or gas stations may have accident report forms drivers can complete and then mail to the local law enforcement agency.
Yes, in almost all instances, drivers should report even minor accidents to their insurers.
Drivers involved in minor collisions often resist reporting them to their insurance companies for two reasons: they expect their insurance rates to increase and they assume they can work out any problems informally without involving insurers.
It is important to understand that every automobile insurance policy requires policyholders to report any accident immediately. Failure to report an accident to an insurer may cause significant future complications or penalties. If drivers agree to work things out and not file insurance claims, what happens later when a driver realizes the damage was more severe than first believed or injuries unnoticed by the driver at the accident scene emerge?
If, after several weeks or months a driver makes a claim for unnoticed vehicle damage or for injuries that later crop up, the driver’s insurer might deny certain coverage for failure to report the accident promptly. An attempt to avoid any possible insurance premium increase may result in an increase even greater than expected.
The only reasonable time to avoid reporting an accident to the insurance company is if it occurs in the insured’s vehicle, on the insured’s property, without personal injury, or the only property damage is to that of the insured. If an insured driver backs into the garage door or scrapes the fence next to their own driveway, there is no dispute about fault or the cost of repairs.
If there is a dispute about fault or injury that occurred as the result of a vehicle accident, Lafayette drivers should contact a personal injury lawyer. These attorneys are tasked with recovering the full and fair monetary compensation due to those injured in an accident.
Many law firms like Laborde Law Firm offer free personal injury legal consultations in person or over the phone. Personal injury cases are generally billed on a contingency basis, which means the car accident attorneys do not collect fees unless their clients recover financial compensation after a settlement or trial.
There is no risk in speaking with a personal injury attorney, and there is no substitute for the advice, advocacy, representation, and assistance of a skilled and experienced lawyer.