Although they don't get a lot of press, plenty of minor auto accidents occur each year. You tap the bumper of the car in front of you at a stop light or someone swipes your driver's side door while trying to squeeze into a parking space. The damage seems relatively inconsequential so you don't report it to the authorities or your insurance company. Unfortunately, the other party decides weeks later that they do want to be compensated for any damages sustained. Here's what you need to know about handling this situation.
Many states only require you to report an accident if the property damage was over a certain dollar amount and/or the people involved sustained injuries. For instance, you only need to file a report in Oregon if damage to the vehicle or property exceeds $1,500, there was an injury or someone died.
However, all insurance companies require policy holders to report accidents no matter how minor. Failure to do so can result in the denial of benefits. Although you may not want to tell your insurance provider about the accident because you're afraid your rates will increase, doing so can provide you with protection in case the other party decides to come after you for damages after declining to do so at the time the accident occurred.
Dealing with a Belated Claim
If you chose not to report the accident and are now facing a demand for compensation from the other party, there are a couple of things you need to do. The first is to report the accident to your insurance company. Depending on the facts of the case and how long ago the accident occurred, your provider may or may not pay the claim. However, you won't know until you contact the company.
The second thing you need to do is establish liability. The individual may change their mind if you can show they were at fault for the accident. On the other hand, if the fault is obviously yours, then you can agree to pay the damages or negotiate a payment arrangement. Understand, though, that you're not required to be cooperative.
You can decline to pay the claim and force the other person to take you to court where the burden will be on their shoulders to prove their case. If the accident wasn't reported to police or any other official entity, then the judge will have to make a decision based on witness testimony and evidence. You may win the case if the other party has little to no evidence backing up their claim or you can produce witnesses who can credibly dispute the other person's description of the events.
It's a good idea to consult with an accident attorney who can advise you what to do. Sometimes having an attorney contact the other party is enough to get the individual to drop the claim to avoid a lengthy legal battle. Look around for an attorney who offers free consultations to discuss your case while minimizing your initial legal costs. For more information, contact Gibbs and Parnell or a similar firm.