It may be tempting to avoid reporting an accident to your insurance company. It could lead to a rate increase, or even lost coverage if the company decides you've had one accident too many. However, failing to report the accident entirely can be risky as well. You may have to pay damages out of pocket, and the insurance company can drop your policy.
When Not to Call
If you get into a single-car accident that doesn't damage another vehicle or property, you don't need to report the incident. For example, Consumer Reports suggests you shouldn't report a low-speed impact like the kind that occurs if you back the car into your garage door. If the damage is below or close to your policy's deductible, there are no injury concerns, and there's no risk of anyone else filing a claim regarding the accident, you won't have to call the insurance company.
Reporting Allows Investigation
In most cases, auto insurance policies require claims for accidents that do involve injury, another vehicle, someone else's property. The claim allows to company to determine who is at fault and what damages need to be paid. The companies don't make a distinction between minor or major damage. The time you have to file a claim varies depending on your insurance company guidelines, but all suggest you file as soon as possible after the accident. Waiting to file can limit the insurance company's ability to investigate the accident, and can be grounds for a denial.
Avoid the Risk
Even if you're convinced the accident wasn't your fault, or if the other driver initially claims responsibility, you take a risk by not reporting the accident. If there's a police report filed, or the other driver reports the claim to his insurance provider, your insurance company will be alerted anyway. In addition, informal private arrangements among drivers often fail to work out, according to Consumer Reports. If the other driver changes his mind and files suit against you, and you haven't reported the incident, it will be difficult for your insurance company to go back and investigate on your behalf.
If you don't file a claim when you're required to do so, the insurance company can elect not to renew your policy, or perhaps cancel it entirely depending on state law and policy guidelines.In New York, for example, an insurance company can cancel a policy within the first 60 days of purchase for any reason that's documented in its underwriting guidelines. In New Jersey, if the insurer believes the failure to report is an attempt to commit fraud, it also can cancel your policy. Companies have to give notice prior to cancellation or an election not to renew in accordance with state law. Not filing a claim also leaves you with more to pay if the damage winds up being more extensive than originally thought.
- Geico: A Look at the Claims Process
- Consumer Reports: When to Report a Car Accident to the Insurance Company
- Allstate: After a Car Accident
- New York State Department of Financial Serices: Consumer Frequently Asked Questions -- Auto Insurance
- New Jersey Department of Banking and Auto Insurance: Everything You Wanted to Know About Auto Insurace But Were Afraid to Ask