If you bump the car in front of you, do you really have to report it to your auto insurance company? If the accident is minor, your first instinct might be to settle it with the other driver. After all, you've heard that if you turn in a claim, there's a possibility your premiums might increase. That could cost you more than paying the other guy's damages out of your own pocket, right?
First instincts are sometimes right, but in the case of an at-fault accident, you're better off turning in a claim and dealing with the consequences. There are a lot of reasons why you should report that fender bender to your insurance company instead of trying to handle it yourself. Here are just a few.
1. You might not be legally responsible
You might believe that you're at fault in causing an accident, but what if you're not? When your insurance company receives a claim, they will get the facts, analyze liability and determine if you are really at fault.
Many jurisdictions recognize that more than one person can cause an accident, so you might not owe 100 percent of the other guy's damages. If you're at fault, but the other guy is too, your insurance company will handle the claim accordingly.
2. The vehicle damage could be greater than you think
If you're thinking that you should handle a fender bender yourself by paying the best of three estimates, you might wish to reconsider. What if it that fender bender turned into a total loss, a bumper replacement or an outrageous bill for a bent frame? What if the guy you hit decided you had deep pockets and tried to squeeze out every nickel he could with towing charges, car rentals and other expenses?
When your insurance company handles a fender bender claim, they will have an adjuster examine the damage and write an appraisal. They will work with the other guy and his body shop to make sure the repair costs are reasonable and customary. They will step in before things get out of hand.
3. The other guy could claim an injury
If you pay for that fender bender out of your own pocket, it could be just the beginning of your financial commitment to the guy you ran into. Sometimes injured people don't realize that they are injured until days or even weeks after an accident.
Then they might see a doctor, a chiropractor or even a personal injury attorney before you know anything about it. If you still decide you want to pay the claim out of your own pocket, it could cost more than you imagined
4. Your policy requires it
When in doubt as to what you're supposed to do after an auto accident, take a look at your auto insurance policy. It's written in pretty simple language. If you don't feel like wading through the entire policy, go straight to the section entitled "Duties After an Accident or Loss." It explains how you should report a claim "promptly" or the insurance company "...will have no duty to provide coverage." That should be all the motivation you need.