Almost all of us have been involved in a minor car accident, of the type where no one’s car is damaged, and the only injury is to our pride. Without a loss, it can be tempting not to report such accidents – after all, any traffic incident makes your insurance rates go up, right?
Actually, that’s not true. An accident report that includes an insurance claim may cause your premiums to be increased, but if you have an otherwise clean driving record, were not at fault, are not claiming damages – or if you have an accident forgiveness policy – chances are your rates will stay the same.
In fact, you expose yourself to more risk by not reporting an accident. Here’s why:
Most auto insurance policies come with a requirement, spelled out in the contract, that you must inform them of any accidents, within a reasonable time. The time limit may not be specified, but it’s generally understood that anything over a year is too long. Aside from that, there are severe repercussions that come from not filing a claim (even if damage was minimal), which include:
- Your insurer could refuse to pay for your damages, or those of any third party making claims against you.
- If liability is an issue, they may refuse to defend you, leaving you with that expense.
- You could lose your coverage entirely.
If those sound like extreme consequences for failing to report a scratch-and-dent accident, consider this: what looks like a "just a dent" to you, may actually have jarred something loose inside the car. If you don’t report the accident, and have another accident later, an insurance examiner may decide that damage from the second accident isn’t covered, if it isn’t the kind of damage that can be explained by those circumstances.
When you do make the call to report your minor accident, here are two things to remember:
- Call your insurer’s claims department, not your agent. Agents often forget to file claims, thinking, as you do, that they’re not a big deal.
- Consider waiving damage payments. If there really was NOT any damage to your car, you can protect your rates (in some cases) by handling the repairs yourself, as long as you go on record with your insurer.
Even a minor accident shakes you up. Reduce the stress by not risking your insurance coverage. Report your accidents, every time.