Not reporting an accident to your insurance company can leave you vulnerable. But if there’s only minor damage and you trust an at-fault driver, you could let them pay and avoid the risk of having insurance premiums going up.
You should definitely speak to a California car accident lawyer when your accident involves serious injuries or you are being blamed for a crash you didn’t cause. Maison Law offers a free consultation to all California car accident victims. It’s a no-risk way to find out what your accident is worth and the best way to hold a car insurance company fully responsible.
Protecting Yourself After a California Traffic Collision
An accident can leave you in shock and, in some cases, inflict a painful injury on you or a loved one. Getting medical care is the most important task after an accident. Afterward, you’ll also probably have questions about who will pay for damages to your vehicle and for the hospital bills you receive.
Sometimes, those questions are dealt with at the scene of an accident. An at-fault driver may ask to keep car insurance companies out of the resolution. The driver might want to pay you cash or provide you with a check after the car damage totals are added up. It’s known so some as a “handshake” deal.
You should only consider settling a car accident without the involvement of car insurance if a few things are true:
- If the damage is fairly minor, such as fender damage or a body dent, and doesn’t total more than a few hundred dollars.
- If you know the person who caused the accident or have a reason to trust the driver.
- If the accident isn’t serious enough to contact police officers or the California Highway Patrol about.
- As long as you aren’t legally required to report the accident to California authorities. (see below)
These are a few reasons you would want to make sure to report your accident to an insurance provider:
- If your car damage totals are high or you aren’t sure how badly your car is damaged.
- If you or a loved one are injured.
- If you aren’t sure how bad your injuries are. You may feel you only have some bruising but find out later that you have a hairline fracture.
- If the at-fault driver disputes fault for what happened.
- If you don’t feel you can trust the other driver.
When the costs of a car accident escalate, you shouldn’t trust that another driver will have the money to cover repairs or the cost of a replacement car. If you go to the emergency room with an injury, the bills will almost always be too high to depend on the goodwill of an at-fault driver. You’ll need to involve car insurance companies so that you can seek the financial support you’ll require to pay for recovery.
When Must I Report a California Car Accident?
After a motor vehicle accident in California, there are two reporting requirements that the parties must comply with. Once these reports are made, it’s likely that your car insurance company will also receive word and any desire to keep a car accident quiet wouldn’t work.
The local police or the California Highway Patrol must be notified within 24 hours of an accident that involves any injury or death.
A report (SR-1 form) must also be filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles if the accident reached any of these limits:
- Property damage in excess of $1,000 for at least one person involved.
- There was a personal injury no matter how minor.
- A fatality resulted from the accident.
This reporting requirement applies, even if your accident occurred on private property.
Do I Have to Let My Car Insurance Provider Know About an Accident?
You are required to alert your car insurance company to any collision you’re involved in. The deadline will be listed in your policy. It could be as short as 24 hours after a crash.
Some drivers ignore this requirement in accidents that involve only a fender bender or some dents and dings. Keep in mind that if you don’t report an accident, a car insurer could use the information as a reason to cancel your coverage later. You could also forfeit your right to file a property damage or injury claim at a later date.
What to Do After a Car Accident?
Once you agree to allow at-fault drivers to compensate you themselves, you must make sure you have at least some evidence to hold against them if you later must file an accident claim.
The other driver might decide to never take your phone call again. Then you’d have to prove an accident happened and that it was the other driver’s fault, days or weeks after it occurred.
Evidence may be scarce once the scene had been cleared and several days have passed. So, even if you agree to accept a cash payment to get your car fixed, try to gather this evidence before you let an at-fault driver speed away.
- Always call 911 if you or someone else is injured.
- Take pictures. Document the scene, the car that hit you, and traffic signs and markings. Even if you won’t be informing the State of California or insurance adjusters, you should keep this evidence just in case.
- Get contact information from witnesses in case you end up needing their testimony to prove what happened.
- Exchange information with the at-fault driver even if you aren’t involving insurance companies. Get the insurance provider of the other driver and driver’s license information.
- Keep any damaged clothing and personal items. Don’t throw evidence out in case you need it later for an insurance claim.
Contact Maison Law After a Serious Accident
If you have doubts about what you should do after an accident, there’s no risk in calling a skilled California Car Accident Lawyer. Maison Law offers a free, confidential car crash consultation. You can find out if you should be demanding more from a driver and an insurance company.
Contact Martin Gasparian, the founder of Maison Law, especially after an accident involving a serious injury. Insurance companies like to find ways to shift blame to you or downplay your injury when medical bills start to grow. You will have the knowledge you’ll need to hold a car insurance company responsible for every hardship you’ve endured.