Many car accidents don’t result in injuries. This fact is evident in the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office’s most recent accident report, which lists 45,065 out of Oklahoma’s 68,327 total crashes in 2014 — about 65% of that year’s accidents — as resulting in zero injuries. If you’re ever in an accident that doesn’t result in injuries, like a minor fender-bender in a parking lot, you might feel tempted to settle it privately without involving your insurance company. However, as our accident lawyers explain in this article, this can be an unwise mistake.
Do You Need to File an Insurance Claim After a Minor Accident?
No one likes dealing with their insurance company. It’s stressful, it’s confusing, and worst of all, could result in an increase to your premium. In light of these drawbacks, it’s understandable that many drivers try to make private arrangements without getting their insurance companies involved. However, taking a shortcut around your insurer could lead to serious financial and even criminal penalties.
While state laws don’t require you to report minor property damage accidents to the police – a topic you can read more about in our article on reporting a car accident to the Oklahoma City Police Department – you can be certain your insurance policy requires you to report the crash to your insurer, no matter how insignificant the apparent damage. Even if you honor your promise not to contact your insurer, how can you be certain the other motorist will do the same once they go home and double-check their policy’s fine print? The short answer is, you can’t.
You also can’t be certain the other motorist didn’t sustain any injuries that would cause them to contact their (or your) insurer, even if they initially promised not to. You might be surprised at how little force it takes to inflict injuries. According to a peer-reviewed medical study published in European Spine Journal, a velocity change of only about six to nine miles per hour pushes the “limit of harmlessness” where whiplash damage can start to occur. (You can read more about whiplash, one of the most common car accident injuries, in our article on how much a neck injury is worth.)
If the other driver realizes they were injured after making their agreement with you, there is essentially nothing you can do to prevent them from reporting the crash. If you discover that you were injured, but the other driver refuses to increase the payment amount you previously agreed to, your only recourse is to contact their insurance company (and an attorney), pulling in the insurers you had hoped to avoid in the first place.
The most effective way to deal with a car accident is to notify your insurer, avoid apologizing to the other driver (which could imply fault), and contact a lawyer for assistance immediately, as we explained in our article on what to do after a car accident in Oklahoma City. If you attempt to handle the matter on your own, nothing guarantees that the other driver will live up to his or her end of the bargain. Even if he or she acts cordial and trustworthy when you’re working out the deal, the bottom line is, you don’t know this person. There’s no way of telling whether that check they wrote you will bounce — and if it does, what’s your next move? Save yourself the headache, and consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for advice on how to proceed.
How Much Auto Insurance Do You Need in Oklahoma?
If you’re reading this article because you aren’t currently insured, we urge you to purchase auto insurance right away. Not only does driving without insurance expose you to major financial risk if you are ever involved in an accident — it’s also against the law. In Oklahoma, all drivers are required to carry the following types and amounts of liability coverage, at minimum:
- $25,000 for injuries, per person
- $50,000 for multiple injury victims
- $25,000 for property damage
You are free to purchase or forego additional coverage at your discretion, but must purchase the coverage listed above in order to be in compliance with state laws. Otherwise, you face substantial fines and could even be prosecuted. If convicted, you’ll end up with a misdemeanor criminal record. You can read more about the penalties for uninsured motorists in our article on driving without car insurance in Oklahoma.
Contact Our Oklahoma City Car Accident Attorneys
Hasbrook & Hasbrook has more than 75 years of combined experience representing auto accident victims in negotiations with a variety of small and large insurance companies. We are tough negotiators who will vigorously protect your best interests throughout all stages of the claims process. If a settlement cannot be reached, our attorneys are prepared to take aggressive legal action in pursuit of the maximum compensation for your losses.
To set up a free legal consultation about your injuries, call the law offices of Hasbrook & Hasbrook right away at (405) 235-1551. We handle car accident claims in Oklahoma City, Moore, Norman, Edmond, Guthrie, El Reno, Shawnee, and other communities throughout the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.