Making the right decisions after an auto accident can help minimize the stress you already face as a direct result of the crash. In some cases, drivers decide that a minor fender bender is not worth filing a claim. Instead, they decide to work things out on their own. Contacting your insurance company is often a good self-defense tactic, though.
Number of Cars Involved
The nature of your accident can impact whether you should make a call or not. If you have a single-car accident, you have a bit more flexibility. If you find out from the local repair shop that you have $400 in damages, it may not make sense to file a claim with a $500 deductible. As long as no other person, car or property was affected by the accident, you don't have much real need to contact your insurance company if you don't file a claim.
If you do get involved in a very minor fender bender with another party, you may both agree that it is in your best interests to work things out on your own. Similar to the single-car scenario, you might benefit from paying a small amount for another person's repairs as opposed to filing a claim and risking higher premiums. Even in this scenario, it is wise to exchange insurance information and at least call your agent for advice. He may agree that the situation has minimal risk. He may also offer additional advice on what steps to take to protect yourself.
A common reason people don't call their insurance company after an accident is the fear of higher premiums. In fact, some people don't call their agent even when they believe the other person is at fault. An alternative if you have this concern is to file a third-party claim with the other person's company. That company would conduct an investigation with you and its covered driver. Ideally, both parties agree that you weren't at fault and your repairs and medical bills are covered. If not, you may revert to filing a claim with your own company and letting it go after the money. Alternatively, you could sue for damages.
When to Call
In some cases, you need to call and likely make a claim. If someone is injured, you definitely need to call to report a claim. Additionally, you should consider calling your agent for advice or to file a claim anytime you aren't at fault. If possible, get a copy of the police report when applicable. The risk you run by not calling is that the other person calls his insurer and provides a false account of the story. This call could result in the other company attempting to get money from your insurer, and the other person potentially suing you for damages. Getting your story on the record helps your insurer defend you.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.