How to Report Car Accidents and What to Do If They Aren’t Reported

Key Points:

  • In Georgia, if you’re involved in a vehicle collision causing injury, death, or property damage exceeding $500, you must report it to the local police.
  • It’s advisable to contact the police post-accident, even for minor incidents. This is crucial especially if the other driver asks to leave the scene of the accident or is uncooperative or dishonest — possibly due to reasons like lack of insurance, intoxication, or fears over legal consequences and financial responsibilities for the damages incurred.
  • In the event the other driver refuses to provide their license and insurance details, the police will collect this information.
  • Promptly inform your insurance provider and that of the driver at fault about the incident, ideally within a day.

At-fault Drivers Might Try to Stop You From Calling Police or Insurance

At-fault drivers might try to avoid consequences by asking you not to call the police or file an insurance claim. This old trick could prevent you from getting compensation, especially if you’re injured. They may promise to pay for damages privately. However, it’s important to resist these pleas. Always involve the police and your insurance company.

Risks You Are Taking By Not Calling the Police After an Accident

If a driver doesn’t report a car accident that wasn’t their fault to the police or their insurance company, they may face several risks:

  • Safety: Accidents can result in fights or violence after. If the police are called, it can control the situation.
  • Lack of Official Record: Without a police report, there’s no official record of the accident. This can make it difficult to prove that the accident happened or establish the details if disputed later.
  • Difficulty in Claiming Insurance: Insurance companies often require a police report to process a claim. Without it, getting compensation for damages or injuries can be challenging.
  • Financial Liability: The at-fault driver may refuse to pay out-of-pocket as promised, leaving the not-at-fault driver to cover repair and medical expenses.
  • Potential for Fraud: The at-fault driver could later claim that the accident never happened, or even accuse the not-at-fault driver of being responsible for the accident.
  • Legal Penalties: Depending on state laws, failing to report an accident can result in fines or penalties, especially if there are injuries or significant property damage.
  • Increased Insurance Rates: If the at-fault driver reports the accident first and lies about the circumstances, the not-at-fault driver’s insurance rates could unjustly increase.
  • Delayed Medical Support: Without a report, there might be delays in receiving medical treatment covered by insurance, especially if injuries become apparent after the accident.
  • Trouble with Future Claims: Future claims with the insurance company may be viewed with suspicion if there’s a history of not reporting accidents.
  • Repair Issues: Without insurance involvement, there’s no guarantee of a proper repair, as the quality of repair agreed upon privately may not meet safety standards.

It’s generally in a driver’s best interest to report any accident to both the police and their insurance company to protect themselves from these risks.

Why At-Fault Drivers Prefer to Avoid Accident Reporting and Police Calls

At-fault drivers are motivated to not report accidents, because it benefits them. It clearly can result in a punishment if the accident is reported. Not reporting is beneficial to them, beneficial in the following ways:

  • Avoiding Increased Insurance Premiums: By not involving insurance, the at-fault driver can avoid the risk of increased insurance rates due to the claim.
  • Evading Legal Trouble: If the accident is a result of illegal behavior such as driving under the influence or driving without a valid license, not reporting can help the at-fault driver evade legal consequences.
  • Financial Savings: They might save money by negotiating a lower cash payment with the other driver than what the insurance would determine as the damage cost.
  • Preventing a Record of the Incident: No report means no official record of the incident, which can be advantageous if the driver has a history of accidents or wants to keep their driving record clean.
  • Licensing Issues: The driver may be at risk of losing their license due to accumulated points or previous infractions, and not reporting can help them avoid additional points.
  • Criminal Avoidance: If the driver is involved in more serious criminal activity, they might want to avoid any interaction with the police.
  • Delaying Repayment: They might want to delay paying for damages, especially if they’re currently unable to afford the cost.
  • Deniability: With no official report, the at-fault driver could later deny responsibility or argue about the circumstances of the accident.
  • Avoiding Deductibles: The at-fault driver might want to avoid paying the deductible that would be required if the accident were claimed through insurance.
  • Time Savings: Reporting an accident can be a time-consuming process that the at-fault driver might wish to avoid.

When Is It Safe to Not Report a Car Accident to the Police?

If its very clear that the damage is below $500, and you are confident there are no injuries. It is important to know that if you see any damage on your vehicle the accident is most likely above $500, since repair shops are quite expensive, even for what might appear to be a little dent. If you notice no damage at all, and you are confident there are no injuries, you will likely be okay by not calling the police.

How Can You Know the Cost of an Accident is Above $500?

At the accident scene, a driver can make a preliminary assessment to gauge if car accident damages might exceed $500 by considering the following:

  • Injuries: if there are any injuries whatsoever, the accident is most likely above $500, and the police need to be called.
  • Extent of Visible Damage: Large dents, shattered windows, or significant bodywork damage are usually clear indicators of costly repairs.
  • Functionality: If the car cannot be driven or has noticeable issues like leaking fluids, it suggests significant damage that is likely to be expensive.
  • Airbag Deployment: Airbags are costly to replace, and their deployment often signifies that repair costs will surpass $500.
  • Comparing Similar Damage: If the driver has past experience or knowledge of common repair costs, they may be able to estimate the expenses based on similar past damages.
  • Location of Damage: Damage to critical areas like the engine hood, doors, or rear, which include complex parts, can indicate high repair costs.

Does Georgia Law Require Reporting Traffic Accidents to Police?

The Georgia Traffic Code mandates that drivers involved in an accident causing injury, death, or vehicle damage must stop immediately at the scene, share their personal and license information, and report the incident to local law enforcement if there is injury, death, or property damage of $500 or more (O.C.G.A. 40-6-273). If in doubt about whether the other party has reported the crash, take the initiative to inform the police.

What if it Takes the Police a Long Time to Come to the Car Accident Scene?

Police departments are often busy and understaffed, leading to delays in responding to car accidents. Despite any urgent commitments, at-fault drivers must not leave the scene. In Atlanta’s bustling metro area, response times for non-emergency accidents can range from 60 to 90 minutes. It’s important to stay put; leaving could jeopardize your chances of compensation and cause other complications previously mentioned.

What You Should Do While Waiting For The Police to Arrive After An Accident

While you are waiting for police to arrive, write down the make and model and color of the other vehicles involved in the accident as well as the license plate number. You may also want to take cell phone camera photos.  Photograph the scene and the damage to all vehicles involved in the wreck.  Photos can help win your case down the road.

You may also get the names and addresses of any witnesses who stop at the scene to speak with you or the other drivers or passengers.

The police will obtain the license and insurance information from the at-fault driver, if the driver is unwilling to share information with you. The investigating law officer should require each involved driver to provide their name and address, as well as the name and address of each vehicle’s owner, the license number of the vehicle and each insurance company that may provide coverage.

When Do You Report the Accident to Your Auto Insurance Company?

Common Questions about Driver’s Negligence

What happens if you report a car accident to your insurance but the at-fault driver doesn’t?

If you report the car accident to your insurance company but the at-fault driver does not, your insurance company would typically initiate a claims process based on your report. They will reach out to the at-fault driver’s insurance company to get their side of the story and determine liability.
Your insurer may ask for any evidence you have, such as photos from the scene, a copy of the police report if one was filed, witness statements, and your account of the accident. This documentation helps substantiate your claim, especially if the at-fault driver is uncooperative.
If the at-fault driver is uninsured or refuses to cooperate, your insurance company might cover your damages under your collision or uninsured motorist coverage, depending on your policy. However, you may be responsible for paying any deductibles that apply.
Afterwards, your insurance company would likely attempt to recover the costs from the at-fault driver, including your deductible. This process is known as subrogation. If successful, you might be reimbursed for your deductible. However, if the at-fault driver remains unresponsive, the recovery process can be lengthy and challenging.

Is it a hit and run if the at-fault driver leaves before the police arrive?

Yes, if the at-fault driver provides their information but leaves the scene before police arrive, it can still be considered a hit and run in many jurisdictions. The law typically requires involved parties to remain at the scene until law enforcement has arrived and completed their investigation, regardless of whether an information exchange has occurred. Leaving the scene can lead to charges, especially if the departure prevents the police from conducting a thorough assessment or if there are injuries or significant damages that were not apparent initially. It’s important to check the specific statutes of the jurisdiction where the accident occurred, as legal definitions and requirements can vary.

Should I gather the other driver’s details if I opt not to report a minor car accident without apparent damage?

Yes, it is advisable to collect the other driver’s information even if you initially decide not to report a minor car accident that seems to have caused no damage. This should include their contact information, insurance details, and vehicle registration number. Doing so ensures that you have the necessary information should any issues arise later, such as unnoticed damage or if there is a change of heart about filing a report.

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Did the Driver Report the Accident to Their Insurance Company?

Do not assume that the at-fault driver will notify their insurance company of the accident. Some at-fault drivers are reluctant to notify their insurance carrier of an accident. The driver may try to deal with the accident without informing their insurance company.  They might be trying to prevent their premiums from going up. It happens quite frequently. This could cause the at-fault driver’s insurance company to deny your claim.
You should contact both your own insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company and notify them of the accident. It is a good idea to notify them by telephone within 24 hours of the accident.  Later, you should follow-up with a certified letter informing them of the accident.

Reporting a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company

You should also report the car accident to your own insurance company; even if you are not the cause of the collision. Some insurance policies may contain clauses in their policies that allow this to disclaim and/or deny any coverage for you if you fail to disclose and/or report that you have been involved in an accident within a specified time period.

Additionally, when you report the accident to your own insurance company, you may be able to get repairs and/or a rental car quicker, should you go through your insurance company.  Your company will then have a reimbursement claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Again, the longer you take to report the accident to your own insurance company, the likelihood your insurance company may deny coverage for the accident. A denial of coverage from your own insurance company could be extremely problematic if the at-fault driver is uninsured.

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