When to Report My Car Accident to Insurance

You don’t always have to report an accident to your insurance company. When to report your car accident to insurance will depend on the kind of accident. For example, a minor single-car collision doesn’t have to be reported if you’re paying for the repairs to your vehicle. But it’s recommended that you report a car accident to your insurance provider when you hit another vehicle or pedestrian. If a police report is being filed, that’s when you need to report your car insurance to insurance.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 29, 2020

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Things to know...

  • If you have a single-car accident and you’re paying for repairs, you don’t have to file the claim with your carrier
  • After one-car accidents resulting in damage to property or injuries, it may be best that you report the accident
  • Whenever there’s an accident involving two or more cars, it’s best to file a claim so that you can protect yourself
  • If you’re tempted to settle the accident privately with the other party, consider all of the risks
  • Whenever you have an accident with an uninsured driver, be sure to report the accident to the DMV

Car accidents happen. You can’t erase the fact that you’ve had an accident but you can make the cleanup efforts much easier if you take all of the right steps.

It’s all about keeping calm at the scene, checking to see if anyone needs medical attention, and then collecting the pertinent information that your insurer will need to start investigating the loss. Getting this information at the scene will make the next few weeks much less stressful.

The problem with reporting an accident to your insurance carrier is that you have to worry about how the report is going to affect your rates. You’re already paying what, in your mind, is too much for coverage. With a surcharge on your policy, you’d be paying just that much more. That’s why you should check to see if you can go without reporting the accident at all to spare yourself the rate hike.

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Know Your Insurance Contract

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There is a common belief that you don’t have to report an accident to your insurer if there’s minor damage or you’re not going to repair your vehicle. While that does sound like it’s accurate, your personal auto insurance contract says the opposite. Under the terms of your policy, it strictly states that you are required to report all accidents regardless of the amount of damage.

This requirement is in place for a few different reasons. One of the reasons that there are insurance reporting requirements is to deter you from trying to settle the claim privately and getting sued later. While some private arrangements do work out, more often than not you can run into complications that land you in court with the other party sues you.

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Filing Your Claim in a Reasonable Amount of Time

If you go back and forth regarding whether or not you’ll be reporting your accident, you can’t wait for too long. When you delay filing a claim there’s a chance that the entire claim could be denied in the end. You are contractually obligated to file your claim within a reasonable amount of time.

There’s not a fixed number of days that you have. If it appears that you’ve attempted to withhold reporting information and there’s no legitimate reason that you’ve failed to call the company, you’ve failed to fulfill your duties as a consumer. Since you’re violating the terms of the contract on your end the insurer has every right to deny your claim.

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Always File a Claim in A Multi-Car Accident

No one wants to pay 10, 20 or 30 percent more for their insurance because they’ve filed an insurance claim. Unfortunately, insurers are entitled to surcharge you for having an accident and filing a claim for your benefits. The surcharge is applied to your policy at the next renewal when you’re the at-fault driver.

If you’re in a multi-car accident and the other party is willing to settle privately, don’t give into the temptation to possibly save money on your premiums in the next few years. When you hide the accident from the insurer and you start negotiating with the other party, you could discover that they want far more than they deserve. The best way to protect yourself is to have an insurance company backing you.

What are the dangers of settling accidents privately?

Settling your accident and offering to pay for damages privately can be more dangerous than you might think. It goes beyond just having to pay for the damage out of your own pocket. It has to do with the fact that you could be doing yourself a major disservice that will earn you a bad reputation in the insurance industry. Here are a few of the major dangers:

  • The other party could attempt to inflate estimates to collect more money than you from the car is worth
  • The other party could fake their injuries and give you false medical bills that you can’t verify because you’re a false party
  • You could forfeit your right to file a claim for your benefits even though you have been paying your premiums on time
  • Your insurer could still find out about the accident through the DMV and it could still affect your rates
  • Your insurer could cancel your policy for failing to inform the insurer of an accident that affects your risk profile

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What happens if you’re in a single-car accident?


There might not be as many risks when you’re in a single-car accident but that doesn’t mean that you can still skip the phone call to report the accident. There are still scenarios where single-car accidents must be reported. Especially if the accident happened on public property and you damaged property owned by someone else.

There are only a few times when it’s okay for you not to report your accident to insurance. The first requirement is that you have to be the only party involved in the incident.

The next requirement is that the accident must be on private property or property that you own. That last requirement is that only your property can be damaged. If all of these boxes are checked, you’re safe to handle the repairs on your own.

When will your rates go up following the report?

Your rates aren’t going to just suddenly go up right after you report your accident. If you’re at least 51 percent at fault for your accident, you’ll see a rate hike at the next renewal following the settlement of the claim. That could be within six months or 12, sometimes longer.

Car insurance policies can be affordable when you’re seen as a low-risk driver. It’s when you have an accident and it exceeds the statewide threshold that you have to worry about raising your insurance budget. If you’ve recently had a claim and you want to price the cost of insurance, use an online quoting tool and see if you’re being overcharged.

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