A minor accident may not seem worthy of a police report. It may seem more convenient to just resolve matters as quickly as possible, and not make a fuss. However, several powerful reasons exist that should make you reconsider.
Rhode Island law states you needn’t report an accident to the DMV unless someone’s injured or killed or if you suspect the damage exceeds $1,000. Luckily accidents usually only cause property damage, but according to the National Safety Council, fatalities and motor vehicles injuries have also reached an all-time high. Regardless of state requirements, it’s always preferable to file a police report. Here’s why.
Accidents Confuse Drivers
Most drivers have at least one accident in their lifetime – sometimes more. Confusion and nervousness are not unusual when they occur. Adrenalin and anxiety can cloud your judgment.
If you do not call the police and file a report, you could agree to a settlement when you shouldn’t or miss information you need to pursue the matter further.
Law enforcement assistance is invaluable when determining who is responsible for the accident. Officers record the circumstances, interview drivers and witnesses, and look for physical evidence at the scene. The evidence they collect provides proof if you need to file an insurance claim and can substantiate risky driving behaviors such as speeding, reckless driving, distracted driving, and driving drunk.
Uninsured or Underinsured Driver
Many drivers in Rhode Island do not carry sufficient automobile insurance or they have no insurance at all. In both cases, having a police officer on the scene protects your interests.
The driver must provide identification and produce proof of insurance. As well, a law enforcement presence makes it less likely they will flee the scene.
Undetected Damage or Injuries
Even if an accident seems minor, you may discover it was more severe than you initially thought. A minor fender bender you believed to be under $1,000 could cost much more if it caused unseen damage. Without a police report, your insurance company may not question your damages and the DMV may later discover the accident and penalize you for not having filed a report.
Even if you feel perfectly fine after the accident, symptoms may crop up weeks later. For instance, neck and back injuries may not manifest for weeks, months, and sometimes years later. If you do not file a police report and then try to pursue the other driver for medical costs, the driver can deny the accident ever happened. You’ll foot the bill for your medical costs.
Your insurance company requires you to report accidents to them so they can investigate your claim, your injuries and vehicle damage, and those of the other driver.
If you’re at-fault and do not report the accident, they could initially deny your claim if the other driver reports it, which could complicate and delay the settlement or could get you into legal trouble for appearing to have no insurance. Involving the police records accident details and protect your interests. Reporting your claim promptly to your insurance company also helps them to expedite the settlement and often reduces the overall cost of your claim. If you choose to settle directly with the other driver, you risk paying out-of-pocket for expenses and still have the other driver report it to your insurance company or to the police which will cause you bigger troubles down the road for not reporting.
If you’re in an accident, don’t put yourself at risk. Call the police, file a report, and talk to your independent insurance agent. They’ll walk you through the process and explain your policy options. Don’t make a rash settlement at the accident scene – it could have long-term, devastating implications.