What Happens If You Don’t Tell Your Insurance Company About an Accident?
Not reporting an accident to your insurance company is a bad idea. You could end up having your policy canceled, and even get accused of the crime of leaving the scene of an accident by the other party.
Perhaps you are afraid your insurance premiums will rise, or that you will accrue more points on your license. Maybe you figure the damage is minor and would cost less to fix than your deductible. While those things may prove true, far worse may occur by failing to let your insurer know.
A typical scenario involves a minor collision in which neither vehicle appears damaged. After exchanging contact information, the other driver seems amenable to forget the entire incident. You do not tell your insurance company, but meanwhile the other driver discovers their vehicle did suffer some damage. The driver then tells their insurance company about the collision and might say you left the scene. Meanwhile, when your insurance company gets wind of the fact that the accident was not reported, the result for you is unfavorable. Your policy risks termination, as you abrogated your agreement.
A Southern California car accident lawyer at Ellis Injury Law can assist you if you find yourself in this situation. We can negotiate with the insurance company for the best possible outcome.
The auto insurance contract
There is no California law per se about notifying your insurance company after a collision, but your auto insurance policy is a contract. When you signed it, you agreed to the stipulations in the contract, which will almost certainly include the requirement to notify the insurance company promptly after an accident. The insurer must know about the collision as soon as possible so it can attempt a claim defense.
“Promptly” generally refers to contacting the insurance company within a day or two of the crash. If there is no prompt notification, the insurance company can refuse to pay the claim filed by the other driver. You could end up paying for these car repairs out of pocket.
Even worse, the driver could claim they were injured in the collision. Injuries such as whiplash may not show up for 48 hours or more after impact. The driver might then file a personal injury lawsuit against you. If you violate your agreement with your insurer, that could make you responsible for the driver’s medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
Under California law, you are also required to notify the police after any accidents involving the death or injury of a person. The latter refers to even a minor injury. Report the accident to the California Highway Patrol or the police department with jurisdiction over where the crash occurred.
You must also report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of the collision. This notification is in addition to filing a report with your insurer or a law enforcement agency. Any accident causing more than $750 worth of property damage or resulting in death or injury requires DMV notification. Failure to do so result in a one-year driver’s license suspension and possible fines or jail time.
Car accident attorneys will recommend contacting the insurance company even if the damage did not rise to the level of a reportable incident for either law enforcement or the DMV.
There are exceptions to the rule about reporting an accident to your insurance company. These occur if no other party was involved. Even if no other car was involved but you hit another person’s fence, landscaping, or another form of property, you should report the incident. However, if you hit something on your own property, such as backing into a tree, and the vehicle does not sustain serious damage, you may not need to report it to the insurance company. If there is any possibility another party could file a lawsuit, reporting even a minor fender bender is imperative.
Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer for further assistance
If you have been in a car accident that you did not report to the insurance company and repercussions ensued, you need the services of the experienced Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Ellis Injury Law. Call or text us 24/7 to arrange a free consultation or fill out our online contact form.
After evaluating your case, we will discuss your options.