If you’re in a minor car accident and don’t file an accident report, you may be able to settle the matter with the insurance company and the other driver. However, depending on the seriousness of the accident, failing to report the incident could have severe consequences.
For instance, if no one was seriously hurt in the car wreck and there were no deaths, you may be charged with a misdemeanor hit and run if you don’t file a police report. You may also be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000, depending on the state you live in. Your driver’s license could be suspended, and you may spend up to a year in jail.
Rules for Reporting a Vehicular Accident
In most states, obtaining an accident report to submit to insurance companies or in court is required. Depending on the specifics and severity of the accident, you could face legal repercussions or forfeit your right to receive compensation for damages.
If you’re involved in a car accident, whether you’re at fault or not, you’re required to file a report if the damages are $500 or more or someone was killed or seriously injured. This is the case for almost all accidents. Even if someone doesn’t look injured at the scene, they could experience pain days or weeks later. Vehicular damage can easily reach or exceed $500, even if the car accident appears minor.
What Happens If You Don’t Submit an Accident Report?
If your automobile accident fits the legal descriptions listed and you don’t contact the police to report that you’ve been in an accident, you end up with a criminal case on your hands. Another driver could assert that the wreck was a hit and run because you left the scene of the accident without providing your contact or insurance information.
The type of criminal charge assigned to you if you leave the accident site depends on the circumstances. If the accident resulted in serious injuries or death, you may be charged with a hit and run, which is a misdemeanor. You’ll likely have to pay a fine between $300 and $1,000 and lose your driving privileges. In some cases, you could be sentenced to 12 months of jail time.
If someone died or was seriously injured in the car accident, you could face a felony charge if you leave the accident scene without filing a report. This is punishable by one to five years in jail. In addition to these charges, the victim or family members of the victim hurt or killed in the crash could file a lawsuit against you. You could be sued for pain and suffering or damages.
If You’re Hurt In a Minor Car Accident
Even if you’re not legally obligated to report your automobile accident, i.e. your car sustained minimal damage but you weren’t hurt, you could risk your rights if you don’t have an accident report. If you report the accident to the police, officers will arrive at the scene, create a report, and collect contact information for everyone involved in the wreck.
If you don’t have the report and you try to contact the at-fault driver to file a claim for damages, you’ll only have your word against the other people involved in the accident. This raises the risk that you’ll be blamed for the accident, even if you weren’t at fault.
In the case of a minor accident, albeit not required, lawyers advise to report it anyway. Even if you’re not sure you need a lawyer to handle your car accident case, you should consult with an attorney with extensive experience in handling vehicle accidents and negotiating with insurance companies. Discussing your case with a lawyer can help you understand what you’re entitled to and assist you in determining whether you should take your case to court.
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