What Happens if You Don’t Report a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company?
After an Oklahoma City car accident, there are two parties you may be required to notify: law enforcement, and your insurance company. But how do you know when it’s necessary to report an accident to either? And what are the risks and penalties for a driver who fails to disclose that a crash or collision has occurred?
Do I Need to Report a Minor Accident to the Police? What About My Insurer?
The short answer to the first question is no. The long answer, of course, is more nuanced.
If an accident does not result in any injuries, state laws do not require you to report the accident to law enforcement. (That being said, it is wise to obtain a police report regardless, as they often prove highly useful during settlement negotiations. You can read more about this topic in our article on reporting a car accident to the police.)
Under O.S. § 47-10-103, which deals with accidents limited strictly to property damage, the driver who caused the accident need only remain at the scene long enough to exchange contact information with the driver of the other vehicle. O.S. § 47-10-107 specifies that only drivers who are involved in accidents causing wrongful death or personal injury need report the crash to the police. If you fail to report a fatality or injury to the police, you can be criminally charged with hit and run, a conviction of which can subject you to steep fines and a lengthy sentence, not to mention a burdensome criminal record.
With all of this useful information in mind, it’s crucial to note the above statutes address only law enforcement – not your obligations to your insurance company, which is an entirely separate consideration.
In order to determine whether you are obligated to disclose an accident to your insurance company, you should look to the terms of your policy. However, we can save you the effort by stating upfront that all insurance policies contain clauses requiring drivers to promptly disclose accidents, including minor, non-injury accidents. If you think you can get around this requirement by making an arrangement with the other driver on an “under the table” basis, think again. When you fail to report a crash to your insurer, there’s always a risk it will come back to haunt you sooner or later – with costly consequences when it does.
What Are the Potential Consequences if I Don’t Disclose a Crash to My Insurance Company?
Concerned that their already costly premiums could rise, all too many drivers decide that they will simply make a private arrangement with the other driver. After all, it’s not as if insurance companies have spies to watch the road, so realistically, how are they going to find out that you violated your contract?
In fact, there are several ways. Imagine, for instance, the following scenario. Momentarily distracted by your phone, you strike another driver’s bumper in a low-speed, rear-end collision. Fortunately, neither one of you seem to be injured, so you decide to simply keep the incident to yourselves.
A day or two later, the driver you struck begins to notice that their neck feels stiff and painful, their discomfort getting worse by the hour. Unbeknownst to you (and, initially, to the other driver), they have sustained a whiplash injury – and now, faced with a hefty bill from their doctor, they are going to make a claim. That means your insurance company will eventually learn about the accident, even if you’re not the one to tell them.
Because you failed to report the accident, your insurance company may decide to deny the claim. This could potentially lead to your being sued – and getting stuck paying out-of-pocket. Thus, your attempt to save money has actually resulted in far greater costs than you would have faced had you simply reported the accident when it occurred.
If you’re nervous about your premium rising, there may be good news written into your policy. Many contain “accident forgiveness” clauses which will prevent your premium from being raised after a first accident. Just remember that it’s called “forgiveness” for a reason: if you get into another accident, your insurer won’t continue to be so lenient. The extent to which your premium may (or may not) increase following an accident depends upon a few different factors, including the severity of the crash, whether you are a high-risk driver, and, of course, the provisions that are specified by your policy.
If you were in an automotive accident in Oklahoma City or the surrounding area, it’s important to make sure you have a thorough understanding of your rights and responsibilities. If you sustained any injuries, or if your vehicle or other personal property was damaged in the crash, you may have a right to compensation for your medical bills, wage losses, and other expenses. Call the Oklahoma City car accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 right away to set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation.