Do You Have to Report Minor Car Accidents?

by J.D. Written by Team eLocal.
Man is watching broken automobile headlight. Destroyed front light on the left side. Car crash or accident. Insurance, repair. Repair of auto.

At first glance, a minor car accident seems like no big deal. If no one is injured and the damage is nothing more than a scratch or small dent, you may shake hands with the other driver and go your separate ways.

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However, this isn't always the best decision. Even minor accidents can get your adrenaline pumping, leading to poor decisions. If you develop a plan regarding what to do after a car accident, you’ll know if you have to report the incident, what information to note down and what your next steps are.

What Is a Minor Car Accident or Fender Bender?

It's important to understand what counts as a minor accident. The first thing to know is that any accident that causes injury to a person is not minor and must be reported to both law enforcement and your insurance company.

Generally, minor accidents refer to fender benders, low-speed collisions and accidents that only cause cosmetic damage. Not all damage is immediately noticeable, so it's best to err on the side of caution and report your accident. For example, even if your car looks fine, a rear-end collision can cause hidden damage to a car’s frame, engine or alignment.

Do You Have to Report Minor Car Accidents?

There are two possible organizations to which you should be reporting car accidents: law enforcement and your insurance company. The requirements for each are different, and laws and policies also vary between states and companies. This means that whether you must report a minor car accident will depend on a number of factors, such as where the accident happened, how much damage was incurred and what your policy states. However, in most cases, you should make a report, even if it’s not required.

Do You Need to Call the Police After a Minor Car Accident?

The legal requirements for reporting car accidents to the police depend on the state. In all states, accidents that cause death or injury must be reported.

When it comes to property damage, most states require a report if the amount of damage is above a certain threshold that ranges from $50 to $3,000. In Nevada and Ohio, all accidents must be reported. In other states, accidents must get reported if a vehicle is towed or disabled. These laws often refer to reporting accidents to the Department of Motor Vehicles rather than the police. However, the police automatically file reports with the DMV.

Calling the police will also ensure that there’s a police report, which your insurer may need to finalize a claim. Reports are also essential if you need to take the other driver to court. 

Do You Need to File a Report With Your Insurance After a Minor Car Accident?

Whether you need to file a report with your insurance company depends on your policy. Some companies require you to report any accident or damage, even if you don’t intend to make a claim. This allows them to make a note of any damage to compare against future claims.

If you want to file a claim, or if the other driver will be claiming against your insurance, you need to report the accident as soon as possible. This ensures that any monetary compensation is available to you and the other driver with a minimum amount of hassle. It’s best to report any accidents in case of issues in the future.

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What About a Minor Accident Involving Just One Car?

If you back into a garage door or hit a mailbox, you may be considering not reporting the incident. However, these types of accidents still follow the same general rules, meaning they must be reported to the DMV if the cost of the damage falls above your state's damage threshold. If you’ve damaged someone else’s property with your car, a report must also be made.

However, if all the damage is to your property, it’s minor and you’ll be paying for any repairs, there’s no need to make a report. In some instances, this can help keep the cost of your insurance premiums down.

What Other Steps Should You Take After a Minor Car Accident?

You should also know what else to do after a car accident. Make sure you, your passengers and any other drivers involved are safe, and then make the area safe. If you can move your car off the road safely, do this. Be aware: If any car involved in the accident can’t be moved, it’s probably not a minor accident.

Get the other driver’s details. This includes their name, car registration number and insurance details. Take photos of your car and the other cars involved, even if there’s no visible damage. This can help protect you if the other driver tries to make a claim for damage from an unrelated accident.

In the days following the accident, keep an eye on your health. The adrenaline from the accident may mean you don’t initially feel pain caused by injuries, but you might notice symptoms in the aftermath of the accident. If you’re concerned, see a doctor or visit an emergency room. You should also book your car in for a service to ensure there’s no hidden damage making it unsafe to drive.

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