You’ve just been in a minor rear-end collision on your way to work. There is little to no property damage to either vehicle, and you and the other driver mutually agree not to involve the police or your insurance companies. You continue on your way to work and still make it on time and start to forget about the whole incident.

The next day, you notice pain in your neck. You visit the doctor and find out you have whiplash from the collision the previous day. You call the other driver and discover the phone number he gave you was false. Your insurance company denies your claim because you failed to report the accident right away. Now you’re forced to pay for your medical bills out of pocket. This scenario is an example of why it’s important to report an accident, even if it appears minor.

Insurance Company Rules

If you read your automobile insurance policy, you will likely see a statement regarding “timely reporting” of an accident or something similar. This contract clause requires policyholders to report all accidents to the insurer, no matter how small. However, it is difficult for insurers to enforce this rule. Parties involved may not have filed a police report, and even with police involvement, there is a slim chance the officer will notify the parties’ insurance companies. Still, failing to report an accident to your insurer can harm your chances of coverage in the future.

Many people hesitate to contact their insurance companies after a crash for fear of their premiums increasing. While it’s true that claims can cause premiums to increase if you were at fault, the amount you pay may equal much less than you would pay out of pocket to cover the other party’s damages without insurance company involvement. Plus, if you received a ticket at the scene of the accident, your insurance company can discover this information and drastically raise your premium for failure to report the collision.

If you were not at fault for the accident and the other party is trying to convince you not to contact insurance companies, it is not in your best interest to listen. Your premiums will not increase since you were not at fault, and you place yourself at risk by making only a verbal agreement with the other driver. The driver may give you false information, or not have the means to cover your damages. The driver might call the police after you’ve left the scene, and misconstrue what happened to pin the incident (or even a hit and run charge) on you. When it comes to reporting car accidents, even minor ones, honesty is the best policy.

West Virginia Police Report Laws

Every state has different laws regarding when it’s legally necessary to report a car accident. The West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles stipulates that if the accident involves injury, death, or at least $500 worth of property damage, you must report it to the police. While you have five days to report the accident, it is best to notify your local police office while still on the scene of the crash. This way, you have an official police report of the incident on record.

No matter what the extent of damages, report an accident to the police if the other driver is being uncooperative. If the driver refuses to give you his or her insurance or contact information, or will not admit fault when you know the other driver was responsible, call the police. Police can gather eyewitness statements and take official photos of physical evidence at the scene, such as skid marks on the road. Law enforcement can assist you in getting the other party to comply with accident laws and insurance reporting.