Many car accidents don’t result in injuries. This 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 — resulting in zero injuries.
Do You Need to File an Insurance Claim After a Minor Accident?
No one likes dealing with their insurance company. It’s stressful, confusing, and, worst of all, it could increase your premium. Given these drawbacks, it’s understandable that many drivers try to make private arrangements without involving their insurance companies. However, taking a shortcut around your insurer could lead to serious financial and 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 the 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.
If the other driver realizes they were injured after agreeing with you, you can do nothing 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 immediately contact a lawyer for assistance, 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 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 insured, we urge you to purchase auto insurance immediately. Driving without insurance exposes 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 to comply with state laws. Otherwise, you face substantial fines and could even be prosecuted. If convicted, you’ll end up with a misdemeanor criminal record.
Potential Benefits and Risks of Settling Without Insurance
Settling without insurance might seem appealing due to potentially lower costs and a faster resolution. However, this approach carries significant risks, such as receiving inadequate compensation and facing legal liability. Additionally, there’s the risk that the other motorist may not honor their promise not to contact their insurer, which could complicate matters further.
Steps to Consider When Settling Without Insurance
To navigate a settlement without insurance involvement successfully, consider the following steps:
- Assess the Severity of the Accident: Evaluate the extent of injuries, property damage, and medical expenses involved.
- Gather Evidence: Compile all relevant evidence, including police reports, medical records, witness statements, and photographs, to support your claim.
- Negotiate with the Other Party: Engage in discussions to agree on a fair settlement amount and terms.
- Draft a Settlement Agreement: It’s vital to document the settlement terms in writing, outlining compensation, release of liability, and payment terms, to avoid future disputes.