You may not think that hitting a guard rail warrants a police report, but getting one anyway may be the best option, because leaving the scene of any accident usually is a crime. Filing the claim could work against you too, so paying out of pocket for the costs may benefit you more than letting insurance pay for the damages.
In general, insurance companies usually let you file a claim without a police report. Some insurance underwriters may only waive the police report when the police do not have enough time to report the accident. However, failing to alert the police of the accident constitutes a "hit and run" when it involves property damage. Most states count a hit and run as a misdemeanor, which carries a jail term of up to six months and other fines and penalties, such as a license suspension.
Is It Worth Claiming?
States typically do not require police to fill out a report when no significant property damage occurs, but filing a claim may not be worth the extra cost to your premium. Unless the costs of the damage to the car exceed that of the deductible -- the portion you pay on the insurance plan -- making a claim can negatively impact your driving history. If you file a report with the police, the insurance company will likely find out eventually, because insurance companies have access to Department of Motor Vehicle records.
Other Reasons to File a Report
Insurance companies may require a police report when you do a large amount of damage to the car, especially if you total the vehicle. You may need a police report when you are not at fault in the crash, such as swerving to avoid hitting an animal. In these situations, the insurance company wants a police report to get as many details and possible and any eyewitness testimony.
You should check with your insurer for its policy on filing a claim without a police report. The adjuster also can tell you the effect of the claim on your insurance. Some companies allow a few claims before increasing your premium if you are at fault. If you were not at fault, comprehensive insurance -- assuming you opt for comprehensive coverage -- would cover the damage to the guard rail and car and not affect your premium.
- FindLaw: Leaving the Scene of an Accident/Hit and Run
- CarInsurance.com: Can You File a Claim If There Were is No Police Report Regarding the Accident?
- MSN Money Central; When NOT to File a Claim; Liz Weston
- AutoInsuranceTips.com; Filing an Auto Insurance Claim: When Do You Need a Police Report?; Holly Harmon; January 2009
- CarInsuranceRates.com: How Do Comprehensive Claims Affect Your Car Insurance