We’re All Headed for a Crash… Eventually!

I’ve got bad news for you. You’re going to be in an automobile accident. Yeah, I know you are ultra careful on the roads and obey all traffic laws at all times… but, yeah, you are going to be in a road accident. After all, no matter how well you control yourself and your vehicle, you have no control over the other knuckleheads on the road.

There is simply no getting around the numbers. According to Forbes Magazine, the average driver will file car accident insurance claim nearly every 18 years which works out to three or four claims over the lifetime of most drivers in the United States.

Assuming you get your license at 16, odds are that you’ll have at least one crash by your early 30s. And, over your entire driving life, you’ll be in three or four vehicle accidents. The numbers rarely lie.

But, It’s Fine; We’re Going to be Okay

Now that I’ve got your attention, please allow me to give you a bit of good news: the statistics say that you’ll get through your vehicle accidents just fine. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency responsible for keeping people safe on America’s roadways, fatal traffic accidents dropped by nearly 2% from 2016 to 2017.

Out of the more than 7,300,000 crashes in 2017, just over 37,000 of them were fatal. This pencils out to only 0.005% of all accident leading to death or, put another way, 1.2 fatalities per every 100,000,000 vehicle miles driven. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never come close to driving a million miles in a year, let alone 100 million miles.

So, yes, unless you drink and drive, speed like a demon, or drive recklessly, your biggest worry when it comes to being in an accident will most likely be filing your auto insurance claim properly. And, make no mistake about it, this can be a daunting task all on its own. But, don’t worry, the questions and answers below ought to ease your mind.

Can You File a Car Insurance Claim without a Police Report?

No, for most vehicle accidents you will not need a police report to file a car insurance case as long as no one was injured and there was no substantial damage caused. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because auto insurance regulations are made at the state level, not nationally.

Filing a form for insurance claim

What we should be asking is, “When are we required to file a vehicle accident report with the police?” Nolo, possibly the most highly respected legal advice website on the planet, says that in California you are only required to file a police report if someone was injured or killed in the crash and/or the accident caused at least $750 in a vehicle or other property damage.

Meanwhile, the law in Alabama has a mandatory reporting threshold of just $250 in damage.

Now, that said, you know that your car insurance provider knows the laws in your state, so if you are in a bump that requires a police report be filed, you can bet your pretty toes that your vehicle insurance company will request a copy of the report if a claim is filed.

Do You Have to Report an Accident if not Claiming?

Depending upon the state you are driving within, you may or may not have to report an accident if you are not filing an auto insurance claim. Most states mandate that you submit a police outline if you are involved in a vehicle collision that caused an injury.

Minor fender bender and police report:

Also, some states, as we covered in the previous question and answer, require police reports for crashes that cause a certain amount of damage. And, there are other states requiring drivers to report all accidents, even fender benders.

What’s Included in a Police Report?

A vehicle accident police report tells the story of the crash. At a minimum, it’ll capture:

  • When and where the collision took place
  • Contact and insurance information for the involved parties
  • The Contact information of the witnesses
  • Statements from the parties and witnesses
  • Description of vehicle and property damage
  • A simple diagram of the crash
  • Description of the driving conditions at the time of the accident
  • The opinions of the law enforcement officers
  • Citations given
  • Laws broken

What are the Benefits of Filing a Police Accident Report?

Though you do not always have to report a road crash to the police, it is wise to do so. If the police do not go to the scene of the accident, they may take the report at the hospital assuming there have been injuries. If not, file your report online or at the police station. In most cases, crime reports need to be made within 24 hours.

Your police vehicle accident report will provide many benefits. Your police report will protect you from fraudulent claims. Also, the report will keep you safe from the other parties changing their stories post fact. And It will help your auto insurance provider process your claim quickly and much easier since they won’t have to keep contacting you for information. The police vehicle crash report will have it all.

Do You Have to Call the Police after a Minor Car Accident?

You do not have to call law enforcement if you are in a minor vehicle accident that does not meet the reporting thresholds mentioned above. If in doubt though, make the call.

Is There a Time Limit to File a Claim for a Car Accident?

You have from one to six years to file car accident claims depending upon the state you’re in. Most car insurance providers request that you report accidents within 24 hours. Failure to do so can slow down the processing of your subsequent claim.

What Documents Do You Need to File an Accident Claim?

At the very least, when filing an accident claim with your car insurance provider, you will need to provide your policy number; the contact, insurance, and license plate details of the other parties; the contact information for all witnesses; and the details of the catastrophe.

If you filed an accident report with the police, you could simply give that to your auto insurance agent.

How Can You Settle Your Car Insurance Claim Quickly and Successfully?

When it comes to settling with an auto insurance company, you must keep in mind that they’ll only pay you for what you have documented. This is one reason a crime report is so valuable; it records everything that occurred at the accident.

But the police report is just the starting point. You must be able to document all of the expenses you accrued due to your accident. These include out-of-pocket expenses, lost income, vehicle repairs or replacement, car rental, personal property damage, and, of course, medical expenses.

This final expense is tricky to deal with since injuries can linger for months if not years. If you have been injured, your best course of action is to hire a lawyer. An attorney will make sure you do not settle too quickly nor for less than what you deserve.

Be Prepared and Make Your Car Insurance Work for You

The bottom line is that you must prepare yourself for those three to four vehicle accidents you are going to have in your lifetime. As long as you get the right car insurance, follow the auto insurance laws for your state, and provide all of the details your auto insurance agent needs, your vehicle insurance plan will indeed work for you!