Chances are, if you have not experienced a car accident already, you will at some point over the course of your years as a driver. Since car accidents are a likelihood regardless of your skill level as a driver, preparedness is your best bet.
According to Houston motor vehicle collision lawyers, here is when you should report your auto accidents to the police.
When You Need to File a Report
Your legal requirement to report a car accident depends on the state in which the accident takes place. For the purposes of this discussion, we will refer to accidents within the state of Texas. However, many states approach accident reporting laws similarly.
You must report a car accident in the state of Texas if any of the following are true.
- The accident caused injury
- The accident caused a death or deaths
- The accident resulted in property damage over $1,000
After you contact police, the officer will file a report with the Texas DOT regarding the specifics of the accident. If for some reason, the officer fails to make this report, you must report the accident to the DOT within ten days under the same circumstances.
Do I Need to File a Report for a Minor Accident?
If the accident was minor – for example, a fender-bender at a traffic light – property damage was minimal, and no injuries occurred, you are under no legal obligation to file a police or DOT report. However, you may want to do so, anyway. Here are some reasons why you may want to file a report in the case of a minor accident:
- Damages may not be apparent. After an accident, stress runs high and you may not fully realize the extent of your injuries or your vehicle damages. Documenting an accident with a police report while you are at the scene is often the best way to record the events. Days later, when you discover you had hidden injuries, you may no longer recall the events that took place. A police report is your proof the accident took place in a certain way, allowing you to receive potential compensation for damages and injuries. Similarly, any other parties involved in the accident may attempt to file a claim against you for their injuries or vehicle damages. If you do not have a police report from the scene, it will be their word against yours.
- Insurance claims. If your damage does not exceed $1,000 but does exceed your deductible and you plan to file an insurance claim, a police report can be helpful. An official police report is not necessary to file a claim, but can provide the adjuster with a detailed look at the scene of the accident, including who was at fault. If your adjuster has all the pertinent information, the claims process can move much more quickly.
Are There Times You Should Not Report a Car Accident?
There are situations in which reporting an accident is not necessary:
- The accident occurred on private property. If the accident was minor and took place on private property, the police will not file a report. Chances are, parking lot incidents will fall under private property rules. If injuries have occurred, you will still need to contact the authorities.
- You are uninjured and all the property damage is yours. If you struck an object but did not damage it or injure yourself, you do not need to report the accident. Simply file a claim with your insurance company, if necessary.
In most cases, if the accident involves another person or damage to another person’s property, reporting the accident is a good idea. That way, you have documentation in case you discover injuries or damages, or the other party attempts to make a claim later. It is important to protect yourself, especially if you were at fault.