Should Minor Vehicle Accidents Be Reported?
Being in a vehicle accident is a scary experience, whether it is a minor car accident or a major one. While new drivers are taught to report major vehicle accidents, many new and experienced drivers are uncertain about reporting minor ones. How do you know if you were in a minor vehicle accident and whether you should report it? Many drivers are not sure how to tell the difference between a minor and a major vehicle accident. If you have been in an accident that was not reported, or that was a minor vehicle accident, consider contacting Labrum Law at 615-338-9500 for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
What Is a Minor Car Accident and a Major Car Accident?
One of the more confusing aspects of vehicle accidents is determining whether the accident is a minor one or a major one. Generally, a minor accident is defined as one with only cosmetic or minor damage to the vehicle that does not prevent driving it and has no or minimal injuries. A major accident is one with significant damage that is expensive to repair or prevents driving the vehicle or any injuries are significant and possibly life-threatening.
The state of Tennessee offers some additional guidance in defining minor and major accidents with their reporting requirements. Tennessee requires that drivers report any accident that results in death, personal injury, or property damage that exceeds $1,500. If the damage is to state or government property, the threshold is $400. Therefore, a minor accident would be on that has less than $1,500 in damage, no deaths, and no injuries.
Should You Report a Minor Vehicle Accident?
Tennessee does not require drivers to report minor vehicle accidents. It only requires reporting those accidents that result in death, personal injury, or property damage that exceeds $1,500. This does not mean that drivers do not have to report these accidents, however. There are several reasons you may want to report a minor car accident, including:
- Insurance Obligations – Many insurance policies specifically state that policy holders must report any and all vehicle accidents, regardless of how minor they are. This means that even if you do not need to report an accident to law enforcement, you still may need to report it to your insurance company.
- Your Word Against the Other Driver – If drivers do not report an accident to law enforcement, the other driver can claim that it never happened. Without a police report, if a driver discovers that he or she has more damage to their vehicle than originally thought, or he or she is injured, it will be more difficult to get the other driver's insurance to pay for the vehicle repairs or medical bills. In some cases, it can be impossible to recover for damages if the accident was not reported. If you are struggling to file a claim because an accident was not reported, Labrum Law may be able to assist you.
- Tickets and Citations Appear on Driving Records – If a driver is ticketed or given a citation in a minor accident and fails to report that accident to his or her insurance company, that ticket or citation will appear on his or her driving record. This record is checked when applying for a new vehicle insurance policy and at renewals to determine premiums. If an insurance company discovers a ticket or citation for an accident the driver failed to report, the insurance company can increase their rates much more than they might have if the accident had been reported. The insurance company can also choose not to renew the policy and drop the driver. When applying for other insurance, insurance companies will be able to see that the driver was dropped because he or she failed to report an accident, and this can make it more difficult and expensive to obtain new insurance.
- State of Tennessee Employees Required to Report – If a Tennessee employee is working when he or she is in a vehicle accident, he or she is required to report the accident. This applies whether it is a rental car, a state vehicle, or his or her own personal vehicle. If the accident involves an unoccupied vehicle, the state also requires that it be reported immediately in addition to leaving the driver's information on the unoccupied vehicle.
Where Should You Report Vehicle Accidents?
Whether major or minor, to protect potential claims, drivers should call local law enforcement to report accidents. This provides a police report and allows police to take driver and witness statements as well as record any physical evidence that may exist, such as skid marks or debris. All of this information may help the police determine fault, which may be necessary when filing insurance claims or potential lawsuits.
In addition to police, drivers should also notify their own insurance of any accidents. Even if the claim will be paid by the other driver's insurance, the insurance company may want to make note of the damage for any future claims. Additionally, if the accident resulted in death or injury or damage exceeding $1,500 to an individual or $400 to state or government property, drivers must file a personal crash report with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security within 20 days of the accident.
Is There Any Accident You Do Not Need to Report?
It is very rare that a driver would be in an accident that he or she does not need to report to someone, whether it is law enforcement or an insurance company. However, there is one specific instance in which drivers do not need to report an accident: if no one else was involved.
This means if you are driving your car, and the only damage caused is to your own property (another vehicle you own, your home, etc.), you do not need to report the accident. There is no argument over who is responsible for paying for repairs nor is there any confusion over why the accident happened or who is at fault, so there is no need to report the accident. However, if you need to file a homeowners' insurance claim to fix the property damage, you should also file with your car insurance, particularly if both are handled by the same company.
Were You in an Accident That Was Not Reported?
If you were in a minor car accident that was not reported when it occurred, and you are now struggling to file a claim to get your vehicle repaired or receive compensation for your injuries, Labrum Law may be able to help you. Call 615-338-9500 for a free consultation to discuss your case and find out what legal options you may have.