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When to Report an Accident

There are few sounds more unnerving than the crunch of two vehicles colliding. Often, however, the sequence of events that follow the actual accident is the difficult part. Even in the case of a minor fender-bender, the hassle of filing reports, trading insurance information, and assessing the damage done to your vehicle (if any) can cause a headache. The first step is contacting your insurance carrier or is it? When should you actually report an accident? And must you always report one, even when little damage was caused to either vehicle or any person?

Do you need to report the accident to your insurance company?

Always fill in your insurer. If little damage was done and all persons involved are okay, that's great. Your agent may advise you to deal directly with the other person if the incident was very minor. However, you have at least reported the incident and any loss, and in the event the other party cannot be trusted or claims delayed health issues or the like down the road, your provider will at least have been notified of what happened and presented with the details and the police report.

At what point after the situation occurs must you contact your insurance company?

Immediately after the accident occurs, you should call the police and exchange insurance and vehicle identification number information. Discuss the situation with only the police, and do not admit or accuse the other driver of fault or liability. Everyone is probably a little shaky, and the investigation is police business. One option for addressing it with your insurer is to wait until the authorities have filed their paperwork, the vehicles have been removed from the roadway, and you have all the available information regarding the situation though you should still make the call the same day, but certainly within seven days. However, a better decision may be to contact your insurance agent at the scene, and have one of the police officers relay pertinent information directly to your agent. The longer you wait, the more suspicious your withholding the information becomes. Should you contact your carrier after the incident or make a follow up call, your agent will ask you a number of questions, so be prepared with the answers. Have the information in front of you. These types of situations can induce panic or create confusion, but a level head is your best friend. Be certain you have the officers' information (including their badge numbers) and take down some notes of your own, as well as take a few photos of the scene if safe and if possible. Know the date, time, and location of the accident, and have the other driver's vehicle, driver's license, and insurance information ready. In the unfortunate event that the other party leaves the scene which you should never do until the authorities have completed their inquiry do your best to record any information on the other driver and his or her vehicle, and flag down witnesses. Give the police the most accurate account of what happened as possible.

What happens if you do not report what happened?

The consequences of not filling your carrier in vary by case. However, some general consequences include a possible change or loss of coverage, diminished chance of policy renewal, or legal action. If you exchanged insurance information and you should always do so with the other party, but do not contact your insurer, the other party could contact them. If you are at fault, failure to contact your provider could result in some serious consequences and they are almost certain to learn of the situation through the other party. If you are clearly not at fault, there is no reason you would not want your provider to be aware of the situation. If it involved serious injuries or vehicle damage, the police and your carrier can advise you on the specialized specifics of the post-accident process.

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