Should I File a Claim for Minor Car Damage
First, my horror story. I was traveling down a busy boulevard in my rapidly growing town and had to stop because someone ahead of me had stopped to make a turn but had to wait for someone crossing the street. I was waiting there for the guy in front to make his turn and I look in my rear-view mirror and see a car racing quickly behind me and I know he's not going to stop. As usual, no one is going to let me make a lane change, so I know I'm going to have to take the brunt of this impact.
BOOM! My girlfriend in the passenger's seat started screaming and I just kind of thought, "Oh, sh..."
Both of us drivers pull over and start exchanging information. My girlfriend still screaming.
The design of my car, I learned later, makes it so the impact is mainly internal and the driver and passengers are spared in this way. The damage didn't look too bad on the outside, but inside the trunk it was dented in badly and also the other guy's car was smashed in deep in the front. It was a heavy impact.
This was my first car accident. I was flying blind. I filed a claim with his insurance, I contacted my insurance too. I was told I could also file a claim with my insurance or I could wait to see the result of the other guy's insurance.
Basically, the other guy's insurance paid for a rental car for me to get around in and had their inspector look at my damaged car. Their mechanic decided it was totaled, paid the rest of my car loan and there was a little left over for me to make a down payment on another car.
But the whole experience took a toll on me. The loss of my first beautiful new car, the back and forth and arguing with insurance agents, not knowing for a long time what was even going to happen, the callousness of the mechanics. I never want to go through the experience again. Definitely not. If I can help it.
Legally Do You Have to Report the Accident?
In California, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles you have to file a report with them if damage to a vehicle exceeds $1000, someone is injured or someone is killed. What is interesting, in the accident I'd gotten into, the police didn't even want to bother with it if no one was hurt and no one had been drinking.
So, take that for what it's worth. You should note, however, that laws are different on this matter in different states. Colorado, for instance, requires you to report an accident if there is any damage at all.
Then the question becomes, "Should I report the accident to the insurance company?"
This becomes a matter of whether the insurance company will pay for anything should the issue of damage or injury comes up in the future. Will the other driver "come up" with damages that occurred to their vehicle? Will they "develop" injuries from the accident? Will you discover that your car was more damaged than you had thought at first?
If so, and you have not reported the accident to the insurance company, they might refuse to pay for anything. It is more difficult for them to assess damage if they are unable to investigate immediately and they can't investigate the accident and damages if you don't tell them about it.
So, again, take that for what it's worth. There are definitely possible drawbacks to not reporting an accident to the insurance company.
So, the obvious answer is to definitely report the accident to be on the safe side. If anything comes up, the insurance company might leave you high and dry.
But I can understand the hesitation. When I was in an accident, totally not my fault, I got rear ended by someone behind me who didn't stop when he was supposed to, I ended up having my car dismantled and held hostage there at the body shop (that was hired by the other guy's insurance company) because they didn't want to put it back together and didn't want to be liable for me driving it off the lot. Meantime they declared it "totaled", meaning the insurance company wouldn't fix it. I lost my car. The insurance company gave me enough to put a down payment on a substandard vehicle that was not like my original car. I ended up with a loss even though the whole thing was not my fault.
So, do I understand the temptation not to go through anything like that for a fender bender? Definitely. Is it wise? Maybe not. But you should take the advice of a lawyer on legal matters, so have at it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.