If a person is involved in a car accident with minor to major injuries and property damage, they need to inform the police. It is highly recommended that a person remain at the scene of the accident until the police arrive. Fleeing can result in a criminal charge of hit and run. If someone at the scene needs immediate medical attention because of injuries, or if there is a fatality, of course, 911 should be called right away.
Contacting the police ensures that all information from the scene is accurately recorded. Later, anyone who is interested can get a police report. The police also ensure that all drivers exchange information about how they can be contacted, their auto insurance coverage, license plate numbers and the like. This information is necessary if auto insurance claims must be filed. It is also important to know whether one or more of the drivers does not have auto insurance.
The determination of which driver is responsible for an accident and whether that person must compensate others for their injuries and damage varies from state to state. Some states have at-fault insurance laws and others have no-fault laws for auto accident insurance claims. A small number of states offer the policyholder a choice between the two.
If a person lives in a state with an at-fault insurance system, then the insurance company of the person who was at fault in causing the accident would be responsible for compensating all of the victims for their injuries and property damage. In a no-fault state, a person would look to their own insurance company for compensation for treating injuries and repairing damages, even if the person was not at fault in causing the accident.
It is important to be truthful in all reporting about the accident, whether to the police or one’s insurance company. Being less than honest might damage a person’s chances of getting coverage and might result in a person having to pay compensation out of one’s own pocket.
Accident reporting and insurance coverage are matters of state law. State laws on the subject of accident reporting and insurance claims vary from state to state. Very few states require that absolutely every accident be reported to an insurance company. So, if an accident is minor and has not caused injury to anyone, a person might want to skip reporting it to their insurance company. The hope would be that person’s auto insurance rates would not increase because of the person’s involvement in a minor accident. The person would pay the minor cost of repairing any damage to their car themselves.
Also, if a person lives in an at-fault state, if the person is not at-fault, they do not have to seek compensation from their own insurance policy. They would not report an accident for this reason.
However, it is possible that a person’s insurance company would find out about an accident, if a police report is filed. Companies sometimes conduct searches for police reports before selling a person auto insurance coverage. Police reports are public records and will be uncovered by an insurance company’s next routine check of a person’s record. Still, not claiming compensation for minor property damage to a person’s car might spare the person an increase in their insurance rates.
Some company’s insurance policies specifically state that every accident must be reported to them, no matter how minor. They may have any way to enforce this requirement legally, but they might refuse to pay a claim if an issue develops regarding a non-reported accident. And, of course, insurance companies can drop customers who are at higher risk of accidents or have a record of routinely getting involved in and failing to report accidents.
What Information Do I Need After an Accident Has Occurred?
This is the information that would be needed to file a proper insurance claim or otherwise deal with the legalities of who is going to pay for any injuries and damage:
- Information about all drivers, e.g. their names, addresses, contact information and insurance information or if they do not have insurance;
- Date and time of the accident;
- Address of the accident;
- Road on which the car accident occurred;
- The direction in which the person’s car and any other cars were traveling;
- Photographs showing the accident scene and the cars involved;
- Observations of driving visibility and the weather;
- Any witnesses names and contact information and;
- The name, badge number and contact information of the police officer who responds to the accident scene
- Whether an ambulance is called and if so, who is removed from the scene by the ambulance.
A person would also want to get the information about all the passengers in the cars with their contact information. At a later time, a person might write out what exactly happened and make a permanent record of all the information and details. They they are sure to be able to access the information whenever necessary
What is the Implication of At-Fault or No-Fault Laws?
How a person proceeds in making an insurance claim for a car accident depends on whether a person lives in a state with an at-fault or no-fault auto insurance regime. A person’s insurance claim depends on these laws and they determine the type of coverage and compensation that a person receives after a car accident.
All but twelve states adhere to the at-fault system for car collisions. In this system the insurance company of the person who was at fault in causing the accident compensates victims for their injuries and property damage.
If the at-fault driver should refuse to report the accident to their insurance company and pay compensation, a person would have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In an at-fault state, a person does not even have to report the accident to their own insurance company if they were not at fault.
In a no-fault state, a person who has been in a car accident would look to their own insurance company for compensation for treating injuries, even if the person was not at fault in causing the accident. Of course, the auto insurance company pays only up to the policy limits. The policyholder would be responsible for paying amounts in excess of the policy limits.
The twelve states that have no-fault auto insurance systems are as follows:
- New Jersey,
- New York,
- North Dakota,
- Michigan, and
The states not listed above have at-fault auto insurance systems. Lastly, a few states allow the policyholder to make a choice between the at-fault and no-fault laws. Depending on what the policyholders chooses, they are to abide by those regulations in regards to their car accident injuries.
An additional complication in at-fault state comes up if the driver whose negligence caused the accident does not have any insurance at all. If this happens, a person would have to report an accident, even if they were not at-fault, to their own insurance company and look to their own uninsured motorist coverage for compensation for injuries and damage.
Hopefully, the person would have uninsured motorist coverage. This is something a person would want to check and make sure they have, in case they should get into an accident with a driver who is not insured. It is a type of coverage that some states require all licensed drivers to have. It is in a person’s interest to have uninsured motorist coverage on their own auto insurance policy.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
If you were in a car accident, after making sure to collect all of the essential information, you would need to file a claim with an insurance company. An insurance company is probably going to compensate you for your injuries and damages. Then, depending on the state in which you live, you would need to determine what type of insurance is available and whether you would turn to your own insurance company or the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
It would be useful to consult an experienced car accident lawyer to assist with ensuring that you understand what compensation you need to make yourself whole after an accident. Then a person wants to be certain that they collect what they need from whatever insurance company has to pay, even if it is their own. Even if a lawsuit is not necessary, a qualified personal injury lawyer can still provide invaluable advice and help ensure that an insurance claim is successful.