After a car accident, it is important to report the collision to both the police and your insurance company as soon as possible—even if the accident and resulting damage seem relatively minor. Reporting the crash in a timely manner ensures that the details of the accident are documented while they are still fresh and allows the insurance company to open a claim and launch an investigation to determine fault.
While the process of reporting a car accident may sound grueling, it is absolutely crucial—especially if you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver to seek compensation for medical expenses, property damages, and other losses. If you were involved in an accident, here is what you need to know about reporting the accident to the police and your insurance company.
Reporting a Car Accident to the Police
In car accident cases, police reports can serve as an important form of documentary evidence. While police reports are not admissible in court and, thus, can't be used to prove negligence, they can provide valuable information to your attorney and insurance company.
It is wise to report all accidents, even if they do not seem very serious, as some injuries and damages may not be immediately apparent. However, in Delaware, drivers are only legally required to report motor vehicle accidents that:
- Result in injury or death
- Occur on a public roadway and cause more than $500 of property damage
- Involve a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol
Drivers must report the accident to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the area where the crash occurred. Depending on your location, this may be a municipal, county, or state police agency. When the responding officers arrive on the scene, they will secure the area, summon emergency medical services, if needed, and speak to witnesses to the accident, as well as those involved. It is important to answer the officer's questions honestly, but as simply as possible, to avoid saying something that could damage your case.
Reporting a Car Accident to an Insurance Company
While Delaware does not have a law requiring drivers to report car accidents to their auto insurance providers, not doing so may violate the terms outlined in your policy. Drivers who fail to notify their insurance company of their involvement in an accident within a reasonable amount of time—usually just one or two days—may have their claim denied. Don't let this happen to you. Report your accident as soon as possible after checking on others involved in the collision and calling emergency services if anyone is injured.
When reporting an accident to your insurance company:
- Stay calm and be polite. Accidents can be traumatic for those involved but, for insurance adjusters, they are literally just business. Don't take their lack of concern or lowball settlement offers personally.
- Decline to make a recorded statement, if asked. Insurance companies consider these statements official accounts of the accident. If you are shaken after the accident and misspeak, it could harm your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
- Answer questions honestly, but avoid volunteering additional information. Stick to the facts of the accident and avoid making small talk.
- Don't speculate on the extent of your injuries. When speaking with the insurance adjuster, you may not yet know if, or how severely, you are injured. Don't speculate. Tell the adjuster you will have more information about your injuries after seeing a doctor.
- Decline on-the-spot settlement offers. Settlements accepted before the extent of injuries and property damage are known are usually a better deal for the insurance company than for the accident victim. Avoid accepting a settlement offer until you have had the chance to consult an attorney.
Experienced Representation for Car Accident Victims
Were you injured in a car accident caused by someone else's negligence? You may be entitled to compensation. The knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you explore your legal option and protect your rights after an accident. Contact the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.