What Happens If You Don't Report An Accident Within 24 Hours?

Updated 3 days ago
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In some states, like California, it's actually illegal to not report a car accident if it involved over $1,000 in property damage, injury, or death. Regardless, you're always better off reporting the incident to the police and your insurance company to increase your chances of getting damages and injuries covered.

Do I need to report my accident within 24 hours?

In general, you have 24 hours to report any car accident to your insurance provider. Most of the time, you need to report the incident to your state's DMV within 10 days.

The reason for this is that it helps draw a clearer correlation between any injuries you have and the incident itself. If you wait several days, then your insurance company could claim that your injuries were sustained elsewhere.

However, many people get involved with minor fender benders. There's no real damage to the vehicle, and all parties feel fine. You may be hesitant to report the accident, but it's still usually a good idea. Some injuries, such as the symptoms of whiplash, may not appear for several days after the accident, and you want to be safe.

What can happen if I don't report smaller accidents?

A lot of people are worried about reporting minor accidents because they don't want their premiums to increase. However, you don't know the true extent of the damage until you take your car to an auto shop. While it may appear as though the bumper was just scratched, it's possible for a fender bender to damage your axles and other components.

Without reporting to your insurance company, you could end up paying for those nasty surprises out-of-pocket. If the other driver's at fault, then he or she may try to convince you to not report it to your insurance. But you need to think about your own well-being.

Accident reporting checklist

After any car accident, it's critical to follow a few key steps. You may feel a little shaken up. But you don't want to ignore the importance of informing the proper parties of what just transpired.

Call 9-1-1

It's vital to contact the authorities, especially if it seems like someone was hurt. The cops may not come out if the collision was fairly minor. But it's still a good idea to make the attempt.

Call your insurance company

You should exchange insurance information with the other driver. Shortly after the crash, you need to get in touch with your insurance company. A representative is likely going to ask for information, which is when you provide details about the other driver's insurance as well as the make, model, and year of the other vehicle.

See a doctor

Even fender benders can result in severe injuries. But after an accident, you're going to experience a surge of adrenaline, masking any pain you may feel. It's critical to see a doctor shortly after a crash so that your insurance company can clearly link the collision with any new symptoms.

How do I report the accident?

You can call emergency services at the scene of the accident. If it's severe enough, the cops should come out to make a report. The police usually interview all parties involved and make a report that typically indicates who's at fault.

At a later time, you can report the incident to the DMV. You can do this in-person, over the phone, or online in some states. For example, California's DMV allows you to download all the forms you need from its website. It varies from one state to the next, so make sure you do research. Regardless of how you report it, you should do it within 10 days.

What happens if I wait too long to file a claim?

There are major consequences to failing to report an accident, especially if it resulted in substantial property damage or injury. It's better to take a potentially higher premium than deal with the following.  

  • Inability to recoup damages - If you fail to notify your insurance of the accident, then the company has a legal right to refuse damages you discover later. This is due to the fact your insurance can claim it doesn't know if the damages were a result of the collision or something else. You could end up paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.
  • Legal penalties - In some states, you could face fines or jail time for failing to report a severe car crash. You may even end up with charges for fleeing the scene of an accident.
  • Loss of credibility - You may not have been responsible for the collision. However, the other driver could file a claim while you fail to do so. Without sufficient evidence, it looks more suspicious on your end. You could end up bearing the blame when you could have got off scot-free.

Is my insurance good enough to protect me in an accident?

If you're not sure, consider comparing different insurance providers to your own to find out who's able to provide you with the level of protection you need. Don't get caught unprepared in a life-altering car accident.

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