Car Accidents Lawyer
Accidents

Settling a Car Accident without an Insurance Company

Sometimes, dealing with insurance companies is more trouble than it is worth. After a small car accident, it may make sense to settle privately without making a claim. It saves you the inconvenience and, more importantly, could save you from increased premiums.

However, settling privately is rarely worth it. Injuries and car damage can be much more serious than you think and, if you failed to report, you could expose yourself to a personal injury claim for which you’ll be personally liable. If in doubt, talk to a lawyer before making a decision.

Car insurance laws in Personal Injury

Whether you intend to file an insurance claim or not, there are several laws that drivers in most states are required to obey after a car accident.

Most state law requires all drivers to report every accident, so long as it causes any damage or injury. You’re required to report an accident even if it involves a parked or unattended vehicle. The police are required to visit the scene and submit a written report if:

  • There were injuries involved
  • There was a fatality
  • There were property damages worth $2,000 or more
  • The officer issued a citation

You can report an accident by calling 911 or nearby highway patrol authorities, and you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The police hold jurisdiction even if the accident occurred on private property.

Primary insurance coverage

Most states consider your own insurance provider to be your primary coverage. That means your insurer is your first point of contact, and they’re legally required to provide coverage even if the accident wasn’t your fault.

Claims for additional compensation and lawsuits will come after property damages and injuries have been taken care of.

Obligation to provide assistance and information

State law also gives every motorist a duty to stop, render aid if needed, and exchange information. This duty applies whether or not the other vehicle is registered, you’re responsible for the accident, or the other motorist is responsible. You have a:

  • Duty to stop, so long as there was any property damage or human injury
  • Duty to share specific information: insurance information, contact details, vehicle registration details
  • Duty to render aid in case of injury, such as arranging transport to a hospital

It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident without fulfilling these duties, and doing so can expose you to felony charges.

It may not be a good idea to settle without insurance

Even if you stand to save some money by settling privately, you don’t want to get into legal trouble for it. It may be hard to think clearly and make the right decisions in the heat of the moment, but there are several reasons why you shouldn’t settle without insurance.

Obligation to report

Insurance companies require you to report all incidents within a few days or occurrence, even if you don’t intend to file a claim.

Failure to report an incident can invalidate your coverage. In particular, if a claim is brought against you later and you failed to report within the required time, you’re left without coverage. Remember that victims can always change their minds.

Many states have laws that forbid insurance companies from raising your premiums if you did not cause or contribute significantly to the accident. If they do, they’re required to notify you and provide a reason for doing so.

Undetected injury or vehicle damage

Drivers, passengers, and pedestrians involved in car accidents may seem fine at first, only for serious issues to turn up later. Neck and back pain are common injuries with delayed symptoms that can take days or weeks to show up.

If you settled privately and failed to notify your insurance company, you may be stuck with paying your own or the other person’s medical bills.

The same can apply to vehicle damage. What initially appeared to be a minor fender bender may turn out to have caused hidden damage after examination by a mechanic, costing thousands in repairs.

When should you settle a car accident without insurance?

There are times when it makes sense to settle a car accident privately without involving insurance.

  • When both parties are in agreement to settle privately
  • When damage is clearly minor and there were not injuries, e.g, a paint scratch
  • The settlement offered is sufficient to cover for the damage involved
  • It’s a single-car accident that only damaged your car, and the cost to repair is less than the deductible

In general, you must always make sure that there’s no chance of injuries, damages, or a lawsuit down the line before you decide to settle privately.

What if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured?

All drivers are required by law to have minimum insurance coverage of $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident for bodily injury and $10,000 for property damage They’re also required to purchase underinsured/uninsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage.

That means if the other driver was uninsured or underinsured, your primary coverage is your own insurance. However, you may be able to recover further compensation in a civil lawsuit filed against the liable party.

Given the complications of uninsured or underinsured drivers, settling privately may be a good option if there was no injury or serious damage.

How to settle a car accident without involving insurance

When you decide that it’s a good idea to settle privately, you must take steps to protect yourself. Here are five steps we recommend:

  • Always exchange information as required by law: name, phone number, address, driver’s license number, and license plate number. Also note the make, model, and color of the other car and take the driver’s insurance information
  • Record the damage incurred on both cars by taking photos and videos; also take photos of road markings, signs, and signals from several angles
  • Insist on calling the police and getting a report if they respond
  • Get 2 or 3 estimates from mechanics first before you agree on the cost of repairs; if it’s too expensive, go through insurance
  • Keep a record of all correspondence and payments between you and the other driver
  • Draft a legally binding agreement when you settle, which must include an offer, acceptance, and consideration (payment)

If you were at fault, get the other party to sign a release if you didn’t already have such a clause in the initial agreement. Get evidence that the damage was repaired (such as the mechanic’s receipt) to ensure the other party can’t come after you again in the future.

When you need a car accident lawyer

If you just had a serious car accident, you’ll have to get insurance involved. It may also make sense to file a claim for additional compensation against the at-fault party.

In such cases, we strongly recommend that you consult an experienced car accident lawyer. They’ll tell you if you should file a claim and, best of all, help you negotiate with the insurance companies to ensure you get the maximum settlement you deserve.

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