When you get into a minor accident, you really just want the hassle and headache to go away. It’s not uncommon to skip steps or think that things like police reports don’t matter, especially when it was “just” a fender bender. But it’s important to always file a police report after an accident, no matter how minor it seems.
Here are eight reasons why you need to file a police report.
IT’S THE LAW
Did your accident result in an obvious injury or damage? The law in most states requires a police report. Because each state applies the law differently, it’s best to go ahead and call no matter what. Trying to figure out if your accident applies to the law is too complicated and time-consuming.
YOU DISAGREE WITH THE DRIVER
The driver stopped and is willing to swap information. That’s good. What isn’t good is that you don’t agree on what happened or why. Getting a police report can help clarify the details and get everyone’s perspective in writing.
THE OTHER DRIVER WON’T COOPERATE
You’re trying to do what’s right and share insurance information. The other driver refuses to give you what you need. Maybe they won’t even speak to you. Call law enforcement. You don’t have the authority to compel them to cooperate, but they do.
THE OTHER DRIVER LEFT THE SCENE
You might think it’s hopeless once the other driver speeds away. How will anyone catch them and how will you get the damage fixed? Contact law enforcement immediately. It’s illegal to leave the scene of an accident. And even if you never get their information, you’ll have an official record of the accident to give to your insurance provider.
YOU MIGHT OVERLOOK AN IMPORTANT DETAIL
In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it’s understandable that you might be shaken up or confused. Even if you think you’re fine, it’s possible to overlook an important detail. Having law enforcement there to file a report will catch things you might miss.
YOUR DAMAGE OR INJURY MIGHT BE WORSE THAN YOU REALIZE
After a minor accident, it’s easy to brush off the ding in your bumper or the twinge in your shoulder. It’s not until days later that you realize the damage will cost thousands of dollars to repair or that you have a serious injury. Having a police report provides documentation of the accident especially if the other driver tries to deny that an accident happened in the first place.
THE OTHER DRIVER MIGHT DENY THE ACCIDENT
Let’s say you worked out a “deal” with the driver, and they promised to pay for your expenses later. You both leave the scene, but a few weeks later, you haven’t heard from them. It takes forever to find them, and when they do, you can’t make them pay or even admit they were in an accident. Never accept cash in lieu of filing a claim – it never works out well.
THE CLAIMS PROCESS IS FASTER
With a police report, even for a minor accident, the entire claims process is much faster. This will be especially important if you don’t realize until later that you’re injured or the repairs are too expensive.
There are two times law enforcement may not be able to file a report for you. The first is if you call during bad weather or another time when there are a lot of serious accidents on the road. Law enforcement will ask if anyone is injured and then let you know they can’t make it. The other time is if the fender bender happens on private property like a driveway or a private company’s parking lot. Police reports aren’t available for car accidents on private property.
The bottomline is that you always need to file a police report, no matter how minor the accident may seem. Doing so protects you and helps with your insurance claim later.