Do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company or the police?

State laws differ on when and how you have to report a car accident. Many people might ask, "How long do you have to report a car accident?" Statutes of limitation vary by state. Generally, you don't have to report a car accident if there are no injures and only minor damage. Keep in mind that even if you do not report your auto accident to your insurance company, they may eventually find out if a police report is filed.

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UPDATED: Jun 9, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 9, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • State laws differ on what you must report.
  • Generally, you do not need to report accidents with minor damage and no physical injury to your insurance company.
  • If you are involved in a crash, there as some key steps you can take to protect yourself.

If you’ve been driving for any length of time, it’s quite likely you been involved in at least one accident. For most of us, accidents are minor, consisting of nothing more than a bent fender or scratched door panel. That said, there are some questions:

  1. Do you have to report every car accident to the insurance company?
  2. Do insurance companies care that you’re involved in an accident if your car wasn’t damaged?
  3. Is it a good idea to withhold information about an accident from your insurance?
  4. Do you have to report every accident to the police?
  5. Do you have to report a minor crash to the police or insurance company

Continue reading to for the answers to these questions.

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State laws vary in terms of accident reporting and insurance claims. But it’s safe to say that very few states, if any, require that absolutely every accident be reported.

Keep in mind that even if you do not inform your insurance company of an accident, they will eventually find out if a police report is filed.

Police reports become a matter of public record and will be uncovered during the next routine check your insurance provider conducts.

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What do car insurance companies do if I don’t report a car accident?

It’s not uncommon for state law to indicate that no reporting is necessary following a minor accident void of personal injury or significant property damage.

In fact, it’s very common for drivers to be involved in a minor accident and both go on their way without reporting it to anyone.

But insurance companies vary in their reporting requirements based on who they are covering and to what extent the policy covers a vehicle. Some insurance policies specifically spell out the fact that every accident must be reported to them, regardless of how minor.

While they have no means of legal enforcement, they can certainly refuse to pay a claim if a non-reported accident becomes an issue in the future.

They also have the freedom to drop customers who pose a significantly higher risk or have a track record of routinely failing to report accidents.

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What are the reasons some people fail to report accidents?

  • The most common cause of failure to report car accidents to the car insurance company is a fear that it will cause a rise in rates.
    • While this certainly is a possibility, in accidents that can be deemed the fault of the other driver your insurance rates probably will not go up significantly.
    • The unfortunate thing is that if an insurance company finds out about unreported accidents at a later date, your insurance rates will almost always go up.
  • The second most common reason for failure to report accidents rests in the fact that the driver involved was breaking the law or practicing some other sort of negligence.
    • For example, a driver who caused an accident while using a cell phone may prefer to pay damages on the other vehicle out of pocket, rather than incur the possible consequences of reporting such an accident to the insurance company. This is especially true in states where it’s illegal to use a hand-held device while driving.

How do I report a car accident to my insurance company?

There is no specific, legal procedure for filing a claim with your insurance provider, but most car insurance companies agree on a few practical things you should always do:

  • Do not admit fault at the scene – This is first and foremost. Allow the police to do a thorough investigation where they can officially determine fault. Admission of fault during the heat of the moment may come back to bite you later on.
  • Make a diagram – Most insurance companies recommend that you draw a detailed diagram of the surrounding area and the accident scenario. Taking pictures at the accident scene is also a big plus.
  • Gather witness statements – Finally, getting statements from witnesses always helps in defending your position. The point is this: the more information you can provide your insurance company when reporting on accident the better off you’ll be.

Reporting every accident to your car insurance company is not necessarily legally required, but it’s still a good idea. It is true that honesty is the best policy, and that even applies where car insurance is concerned.

Drivers who are careful to maintain an open and honest relationship with their insurance companies are more likely to get favorable rates and good service.

Regardless of whether or not you’re required to report every accident to the insurance company, you can find the best car insurance rates by typing in your ZIP code now!

Do I have to report a car crash?

You must report serious accidents to your car insurance company. If you’re not at fault, your rates won’t be affected. High-risk drivers pay $137.75/month more for coverage.

  • You are contractually obligated to report accidents to your auto insurer
  • If there are any injuries involving either party, it is in your best interest to report the accident to your insurance company and the police
  • If you have no fault, reporting an accident will not raise your car insurance costs

There are so many stresses that come as a result of being involved in a car crash.

One of the many stressful aspects is the fact that you need to decide whether or not to report the accident to your car insurance company.

In fact, there are often negative financial consequences that result from reporting such information, even if you do not involve the insurer in making restitution to a third party or to cover your own expenses.

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Do I have to report an accident?

You are contractually obligated to report accidents to your auto insure, so it is in your best interest to contact your insurance company if you are involved in an accident.

After you’ve reported your car crash, make sure to take pictures so you can show the insurance company the evidence.

The Extent of Damages or Injuries Affects Reporting

Many people make their decision about whether or not to report a car crash to their insurance company based on:

  • the extent of the damages
  • whether there are any injuries
  • whether other people involved in the accident are threatening to contact their insurance carrier

If there are any injuries involving either party, even very minor ones, it is definitely in your best interest to report the accident to your insurance company and the police.

Small injuries at the time of the accident often have a way of turning into something more serious later.

When there are no injuries involved and only very minor damage, both parties often decide between themselves to either pay for their own damages or to just put up with the slight damage to their vehicle.

However, if it is a clear case of who is at fault, like in the case of one car being rear-ended by another, the person at-fault may agree to pay for the repairs.

This may save the at-fault individual high increases on their insurance policy premium for years to come.

No matter your circumstance, do not consider keeping this information from your insurance company. This could be the start of some major insurance trouble and is not worth it.

Where the Accident Takes Place

The location of the accident will often have an impact on whether an insured individual actually decides to report it. The time and location will influence when to report an auto accident to your insurance company.

If you do not report a car accident, you could become at fault for not reporting.

Accidents that occur on private property, such as parking lots, are automatically deemed to be 50-50 in terms of who is at fault. Therefore, it is often easier for each party to cover the costs of repairs to his or her own vehicle only and not involve the insurance companies.

Such accidents often go unreported to insurers in order to avoid having the at-fault accident contribute to a rise in premiums.

Single car accidents, especially on one’s own property, in which a driver hits a stationary object, like a fence or tree, are often unreported. If you are ever involved in a car accident in your area, make sure you follow the correct reporting procedures from your insurance company.

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The Consequences of Reporting a Car Crash

Reporting a car accident usually means that there will be an increase in your premiums.

Even just being partially at fault can mean that you are considered to be a higher-risk driver than you were prior to the accident.

If you decide to pay the claim yourself you may save yourself some of the increase in your coverage because you will not add a claim to your claims history. However, your premium will still likely be affected because your driving record will be tarnished by the crash.

Not reporting a car wreck to your insurance can drastically affect your car rates.

If you are completely not at fault, reporting a car crash will not affect your coverage.

This does not mean that you should simply not report it at all. You should always consider your options when you are involved in a minor accident.

Some people may speak with the other involved party and agree to pay for any damages and repairs out of pocket rather than involving the insurance company. While this can work in many cases, you may be putting yourself at risk.

While this can work in many cases, you may be putting yourself at risk.

If you leave the scene of the accident after discussing out-of-pocket settlement, the other party may still call the police and make a report.

If so, you can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a serious violation which will cause your insurance to rise and get you in trouble with the law.

Reporting an accident to the police does not always mean that the police will in turn report it to your insurer. Watch out for the legal ramifications of accidents.

Finding the Best Car Insurance Coverage

Regardless of whether you have reported car crashes to your present insurer, the time will come when you need to find prices on car insurance coverage.

If you are looking for a new policy and want good coverage at a good price, the best way to get it is to shop around carefully and compare what is available. The quickest and easiest way to get a variety of quotes from companies serving your area is to use our online quote tool.

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How do car insurance companies find out about accidents?

  • You may not want your insurance provider to know about an accident because you fear your insurance premiums will increase
  • However, even if you do not tell them, your insurance company may find out anyway, especially if your car is in need of repair
  • If your vehicle is taken for repair, the accident may end up on the CLUE list which stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange.
  • The CLUE list allows your carrier to check this report to see if a claim was filed under your name or the name of the other party to the accident

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Is it okay if my car insurance carrier finds out about my car accidents?

Many companies offer accident forgiveness in many cases. This is an incentive for your business.

Therefore, if you have a fender bender or minor accident with minor injuries, your carrier may consider this accident to be forgiven.

On the other hand, if the accident results in major injuries or happens because of a DUI, your carrier may not be as forgiving.

You may have to pay the consequences for this one.

Your first concern is going to be the likelihood of license suspension in either case. License suspension will depend on the state where the accident occurred and where your car is registered.

Since each state establishes its own laws regarding traffic violations, the state will be a determining factor. However, the outcome can be easy to predict since many state laws are similar.

For instance, if you live in a no-fault insurance state, it does not matter who is at fault in an accident. Each insurance carrier pays for his or her subscriber’s medical expenses and damages according to the terms of the policy.

If the event happens in a state where liability exists, there may be an increase because of the expenses to the insurer. The amount of the increase may hinge on the state also. The state has a set standard of how much a company may raise your premiums.

Once my car insurance carrier finds out about my car accident, when will they raise my premium?

Your insurance carrier may not find out about your car accident for a few months. If you recently acquired or renewed your policy, it may be a couple of years before they examine your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).

There are times when the accident requires the notification of carriers.

If the accident warrants a look at the MVR, then the insurance carrier will look it over.

If your accident is due to a DUI/DWI, your options change.

Your carrier will become aware of your accident and possibly cancel your policy immediately. If you go to court and your license is suspended or revoked, you will not need insurance.

How can I get my premiums back down after my carrier finds out about my car accident?

If you weathered the storm of an accident and it has been a few years since it occurred, congratulations! It is now time to work on getting a rate reduction.

Did you know you can call your carrier and request a reduction? Accidents may stay on your MVR for three, five, or seven years depending on the state.

If you live in a state where your accident remains for five years, you may call your carrier after year three with no violations and make your case.

If they do not consider it this year, they may consider it the following year. The point is as long as you continue driving without incident your chances increase.

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Should I take a class after my insurance company finds out about my car accident?

If your car accident involves the police then you might have received a ticket. This could generate as many as six points on your MVR.

Your insurance company will more than likely find out about the accident; however, you may be able to take a class to lessen the impact.

Taking a defensive driving class may knock three points off your MVR, which in turn may have an impact on the cost of your insurance premiums.

Always drive with awareness and caution!

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Will my car insurance company call me after an accident?

If you’re wondering whether or not your insurance company will call you after an accident, you actually have to contact them first. Then, after you file your claim, they will contact you.

  • If you are involved in an accident, you should notify your insurance agent as soon as possible
  • After you file your insurance claim from the accident, your insurance company will contact you
  • If you do not hear from your insurance company a few days later, contact them again

When should you call your car insurance company after an accident? If you are involved in an accident, it is always best for you to contact your insurance agent as quickly as possible.

How do you deal with insurance after an accident? Immediately notifying your provider will help speed up the car insurance claim process and have the repairs done in a timely manner.

Mostly likely it will be weeks before your insurance agent will contact you or find out about an accident if you do not report it to them first.

You should always take the incentive to contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.

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Why is it important to get in touch with my car insurance company promptly?

Getting in touch with your provider will allow you to get the car insurance claim filed and handled quickly. Click here to learn how to file a car insurance claim.

There are times when your ability to access those funds is essential to paying the medical bills resulting from an accident.

Rather than waiting for the company to contact you, take the initiative and call them immediately.

Normally when an insurance agent or claims representatives contacts you, they are looking for details regarding the accident.

They then process the information to determine who is at fault, what will and will not be covered, who will pay for the repairs of the damage, and the amount that will be paid out.

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How does the insurance claims process typically work?

Should I call my insurance company after a minor accident? The majority of car accidents in the United States are minor and do not usually involve severe injuries. Unfortunately, even minor car accidents can result in expensive car damage. Will a minor car accident increase insurance rates?

The common car insurance claims process is fairly simple. When the policyholder is in an accident, they call their insurance company and file a claim.

The insurance company then sends out a claims adjuster to look at the damage and estimate how much it would cost to repair.

After the claims adjuster files their report, the car insurance company issues a check for that amount to the policyholder for the repairs to the car.

The main thing that the claims adjuster and insurance provider are looking for in a claim is proof of damage and/or injury.

What are the basic steps to filing a car insurance claim?

The first step after any car accident, no matter how minor, is to call the police. Only call 911 if there is a significant medical need.

Calling the police is necessary because in most cases, a car insurance provider will not process a claim without a police report.

The second step is for the policyholder to exchange information with the other driver involved in the accident. Make sure you get the other driver’s license plate, insurance information, and contact information.

After getting the other driver’s information, the policyholder should then get the information of any witnesses that saw the accident.

A third-party witness is important if the other driver is at fault for the accident but decides to blame the policyholder instead.

The policyholder should call their car insurance provider as soon as possible. Most large insurance companies have a 24-hour claims service, so call the insurance company directly from the accident site.

The number for the claims service is typically located on the policyholder’s insurance identification card.

Will my insurance company call me after an accident if I am not at fault?

Many people believe that they do not have to file a claim with their insurance carrier if they are not at fault for the accident, but this is not true.

The policyholder should always keep their insurance provider aware of the situation.

Whoever the policyholder speaks with when they call the claims service will direct the policyholder on the next steps they should take and will follow up with the policyholder as necessary.

Often it can be tricky to get an insurance company to pay for your vehicle’s damages if you are not their client. 

If you do not inform them that there was an accident, it can take a while before the insurance company becomes aware of it.

What questions will my car insurance company ask me after an accident?

After reporting the accident, your insurance agent may contact you to get the details surrounding the accident.

The details help determine who was at fault, what is covered, what kinds of repairs are needed, and who will be paying for those repairs.

If you leave a message for your insurance agent or have questions regarding your car insurance claim, it is the responsibility of the insurance company to call you back.

If it has been a few days and you still have not heard from them, you may want to try to contact them again.

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Reporting a Car Accident to the Police

  • You are not required by law to report an accident, so long as the damage is minimal
  • It is within your best interest to report any accident, especially if another individual claims he will pay for the damages to your car out-of-pocket
  • It is possible for your car insurance rates to increase after an accident that you did not cause

So, you’ve had a car accident but there are no injuries and you are wondering if you have to call the police to report the accident.

The problem is that the laws for this vary from state to state, which means that it is important to know your state’s laws in order to know when you need to call the police.

In most cases, you have to call the police if the damage to either vehicle involved in an accident looks like it exceeds a certain monetary amount. In some states it may only be $1,000 in damage; in other states, it can be as much as $5,000 in damage.

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It may be prudent to call the police no matter how minor the accident.

You don’t know whether something that seems minor will turn into something major later.

Having a police report regarding the incident may end up protecting you if you end up in court over the accident.

What if I don’t contact the police and there is a problem later?

If you don’t call the police at the time of your car accident, you run the risk of a future problem.

If the other driver in the accident is an honest person, then you may only face longer turnaround times from your insurance company.

If, however, that person starts making false claims about an accident, you may end up having to defend yourself in court.

Do I have to inform my insurance company if I have an accident?

You don’t have to report an accident to an insurance company if you don’t want to.

Of course, both you and the other driver in the accident have to agree to this course of action because, if one of you reports the accident and the other doesn’t, this could cause a problem when it comes time to collect on a claim.

Not many people forgo calling their insurance company if they have an accident.

However, if someone has the money to pay for the damages in an accident, they are not obligated to use their insurance to cover the costs.

If you are in an accident that someone else causes and they ask you not to call their insurance company because they will pay for the damages themselves, you still need to exchange insurance information.

The reason for this is that many people say they are going to pay and then they don’t.

If you get their insurance information, then you can make a claim without them, so long as you have the police report proving that there was an accident.

If you don’t inform your insurance company of an accident and you don’t get the repairs done to your vehicle, your insurance company can refuse to pay a future claim based on the prior damage to your vehicle.

It is important that you get the repairs done on your vehicle if at all possible so that any future claims aren’t a problem. You can get repairs done without going through your car insurance.

My car insurance rates went up after an accident that wasn’t my fault–is that legal?

An insurance company can raise your rates even if you aren’t the cause of an accident. However, most insurance companies don’t do this unless you have had several car accidents throughout the year.

The reason they do this is a bit tricky. When someone has multiple claims in a short time-frame, it appears as if the person is engaging in high-risk driving, even if they aren’t the cause of the accidents.

An insurance company will raise your rates based on a perceived risk, even if you haven’t caused any accidents because insurance companies base rates on perceived risk.

For example, a teen driver with no driving history is automatically considered to be a high-risk driver because of statistics associated with teen driving.

If you think that your insurance company is targeting you unjustly, you can file a complaint with your state’s insurance department.

You will also want to consider changing car insurance companies. Of course, you will want to get a quote first to ensure that you can get a lower rate than what you are already paying.

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Do I always have to contact the police after an accident?

You should report a car accident to the police if there has been major damage to the cars or if someone is injured. But it doesn’t hurt to call them for any accident.

  • You are not obligated to call the police after every car accident, but it always is a good idea to contact the police
  • There are certain animals that, if you hit them with your car, you must contact the police
  • Make sure you gather the insurance and contact information of the other driver in every accident

Although it would be in your best interest to always call the police when you get into a car accident, you only have to call the police if there has been major damage to the cars, persons, or property involved in the accident.

Even in a minor fender bender, contacting the police to see if they will come over to assist in reporting the vehicle mishap between you and another driver is a smart move.

The more proactive, prepared, and calm you are before a car accident, the clearer your head will be to make an informed decision during this potentially stressful time.

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Do I need to report to the police if I hit an animal with my car?

In most states, you would not have to call this type of accident into the police. Although you may be shaken up, you are not legally obligated to call in for most creatures.

Animals that you do need to call the police about if you are in an accident with them are:

  • Horse
  • Cattle
  • Pig
  • Goat
  • Mule
  • Donkey
  • Dog

If you hit a cat or other creature, make sure it is on the side of the road and that it is all right. If the animal is severely injured, you can choose to help it by calling a veterinarian.

Should you call the police for a fender-bender?

Even though in some metropolitan areas the police will not come out to an accident unless there is severe damage to the vehicles or someone is injured, you should still make the call.

Having a police report may be the best piece of evidence to prove to your insurance company if you should be liable for the accident or not.

Although the police will not file a police report for you immediately, you will still be able to get a copy of the report.

Usually, you have to pay a nominal fee to the police station a few days or weeks after the accident.

What information should I exchange with the other driver if I get into a car accident?

If you both can get out of the car and are in a safe place to take down information, here are the critical pieces of information you should take down:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Vehicle identification and license plate numbers
  • Contact information for their insurance companies and policy numbers
  • Car’s registration and get the owner’s name and contact information if it’s not the driver
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses and passengers

If you have a camera or one on your cell phone, take photographs of the damage and the car accident scene. If you are without a camera, at least try to make a rough sketch of the accident.

Make sure to note the time, date, and location of the accident.

If a police officer does arrive, take down his/her badge number, and find out where and when you will be able to pick up this police report.

Should I contact my car insurance company if the accident is minor?

No matter how big or small an accident you should always file a notification with your insurance provider.

But depending on your deductible, you may not want to file a car insurance claim.

If you have a high deductible, and the accident only caused $300 worth of damage after getting the car evaluated by a trusted mechanic, then you may want to delay filing a claim on the car so your insurance premiums don’t go up.

In this instance, you can simply pay for the repair out of pocket.

To find out what kinds of insurance rates and deductibles are out there for you, type in your ZIP code now to compare numerous car insurance quotes in your area!

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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