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Do I have to report a minor car accident to my insurer?

On Behalf of | Mar 30, 2022 | Car Accidents

Many Orange County drivers have had some version of the following experience. While driving on a road or in a parking lot, you experience a minor collision with another driver. It seems like there are no injuries and property damage is very minimal. It is unclear whether either or both drivers were at fault.

Because you have a large insurance deductible, lack collision coverage or both, it simply doesn’t seem worth it to report the accident to your insurance company. But are you obligated to report the accident? That’s what we’ll discuss in today’s post.

Vehicle crash reporting laws in California

California law mandates that anyone involved in car accident resulting in injury or death needs to report the accident to the appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours of the crash. The appropriate agency may be state or local, depending on where the crash occurred.

Those involved in an accident are also required to report the crash to the DMV within 10 days if there were any injuries (even small ones) or property damage expected to exceed $1,000. There are fines and other penalties associated with violating either law.

There is no state law requiring you to report an accident to your insurer. If you report a crash to law enforcement and/or the DMV, your insurer will likely also find out about the crash, but you should notify them personally, just to be safe.

In cases where there were apparently no injuries and only minimal property damage, the only potential reporting requirement you may face is one included in your auto policy by your insurer. You would need to check your policy to be sure.

When and why you may want to report minor accidents

Even if you face no legal mandate to report a minor accident to your insurer, you should report under these circumstances:

  • If your auto policy requires it
  • If you have any reason to believe the other driver may file a claim and blame you for the accident

When you fail to report a minor accident, your insurance company may have a valid reason to deny a claim for any damages related to the accident (property damage or injuries). More importantly, if you are blamed/sued by the other driver, your insurance company may deny that it has a legal obligation to defend you.

In short, failing to report a minor accident to your insurer is a gamble. The risk of problems may be relatively low, but it is a risk nonetheless.

Have more car accident or insurance questions? Contact us for knowledgeable answers.

It is natural to have many questions after a car accident (however large or small). At Woods Williford, P.C., we are pleased to offer free initial consultations to prospective clients so that you can get your questions answered and learn about your legal options. To get started, contact our firm to schedule your first meeting with an attorney.