According to statistics from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the average driver is involved in a car accident about once every 17.9 years. Fortunately, not all of these accidents result in life-or-death scenarios rife with mangled metal and crushed vehicles. Some of them are minor accidents, so minor in fact that drivers may wonder if they even need to report them.
You may have experienced a fender bender in a parking lot or at a traffic light, that little jolt to your car, the dreaded bump into an immovable object as you slowly back out of your parking spot.
These minor accidents can make your heart sink because of all of the hassle that is sure to follow. Perhaps you are already late for work or for picking up your children; now you have to wait for the police and spend time on the phone with your insurance company.
But what if the other driver suggests that neither of you reports the accident? Is this a good idea? In a word — NO.
Reporting to the police
In Indiana, you are required to report an accident to the police if any of the following conditions are met:
- Any person is injured or killed: This is a no-brainer. Of course, you will phone 911!
- Any person is trapped: This also needs no deliberation. Call 911 immediately.
- Property damage exceeds $1,000: This condition is more difficult. How do you know how much the damage is going to cost? (A tip– car repairs always cost more than you think they will.)
- If public property is damaged (other than the two vehicles involved in the collision). For example, if a guard rail is bent or a mailbox is dented, you must report it.
- If the driver can’t be found (for instance, if his or her car has been left unattended). Intentional failure to report this to the property owner or police is a Class B misdemeanor in Indiana
- If your insurance requires it
Reporting to your insurance company
- Every insurance company requires that you report any accidents to them. The only exception to this is if you cause minor damage to your own car on your own property – no one else’s vehicle or property is involved.
- The practice of informing your insurance company will help you from being hit with unexpected claims down the road — just when you have assumed that the fender bender was a far-off memory in your rearview mirror
- Often people do not realize that they have been injured until days or weeks after an accident. Also, sometimes unscrupulous drivers who swore to you at the scene that they wouldn’t report the accident think better of it when they get home and make a claim. If you haven’t informed your own insurance company (or obtained a police report), you could end up in a terrible financial situation.
- Sometimes it may look as if the only damage is an insignificant scratch, barely worth mentioning. However, you may realize later that your car is pulling to the side and that the alignment has been thrown off in your “minor” accident.
What to do if you are in a minor accident:
- Stop the car. (It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident).
- If everyone is uninjured and your vehicle seems only slightly damaged, get to the shoulder of the road out of traffic. Put your hazard lights on.
- Call 911 to report the accident. You need the police responder to be a neutral third party and to file a police report.
- If you can safely do so, take pictures of the accident scene, the vehicles, and the license plate of the other driver.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver. Do not admit fault, but keep your temper and don’t make accusations either.
- You will want the following information (for some of it, you could use your phone to take pictures of the other driver’s license and insurance details): Name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, driver’s license number, and expiration date, insurance company policy number and contact information, license plate number of the other car, witness contact information.
- When the police arrive, give facts only, no suppositions. Ask for a copy of the accident report (this will take a couple of days to get to you, but you will need it for your insurance company).
- Call your insurance company.
- See a doctor if necessary.
An accident that seems like no big deal can turn into a huge deal after the fact. Protect yourself from claims that come out of the blue from the other driver or from the expenses of injuries or damage to yourself or your car that you didn’t realize at the time.
Indiana is a modified comparative negligence state. As long as a party involved in the accident is not more than 50% at fault for the accident, they can recover compensation for any damages or injuries they suffer. The catch is that whatever compensation you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Keep in mind the fact that in Indiana, the statute of limitations is two years. Under Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4, you have two years from the date of your car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver.
Filing injury claims for a car accident in Indianapolis can be a complex and confusing process. Even in a minor car accident, details, claims, and accusations can get out of hand. Injuries may not be apparent until weeks or even months after the crash. At Crossen Law Firm, we have the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively negotiate with insurance companies to obtain maximum compensation.
Call us at 317-401-8626 for a free consultation. Or contact us online.