You are involved in a car accident. The drivers decide not to exchange insurance information. This is usually because one of the drivers convinces the other driver that they will pay for the damages themselves. So, you exchange contact information and leave the scene. Is this a smart thing to do? Well, it depends on which driver you are asking.
The Innocent Driver.
If you are the party who is not at fault in the accident, then you have a potential problem. Usually, car repairs cost more than you think. Additionally, damages can be more extensive then than they appear on the surface. When you take your car into the body shop, you might be surprised at how much it will cost to fix your vehicle.
Once you get the estimate, you try to call the other driver. You hope he will honor his agreement to pay for the repairs. At first, he seems cooperative and says he will pay. Then, you try to collect. Suddenly, the other driver becomes evasive and soon doesn’t even answer your calls.
Your Options When The Other Driver Fails to Pay.
When you feel like you have done all you can and the other driver fails to pay, here are your options:
File a Lawsuit.
Since the damages in these situations tend to be relatively small, filing a lawsuit in small claims court might be an option. The procedures are fairly informal and you usually do not need an attorney.
However, if you file the suit and the other driver then reports it to his insurance, the insurance company will hire an attorney to defend the driver you sued. Why? Because they are required to do so.
Now, you have an attorney on the other side that will do everything in his power to make your life miserable. He will do things like send you a bunch of paperwork, which basically has no meaning in small claims case. But one other thing he will do is request a jury trial. That he can do. So, now what was supposed to be a simple small claims case becomes a more intimidating jury trial.
File the Claim on Your Own Policy.
Your next option is to file the claim on your own policy. This is probably the best option for you. If you had collision coverage or uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance will pay for the damages and go after the other driver for reimbursement. Trust me, your insurance company has ways of getting the other driver to either pay up or hand over his insurance information.
If you have to pay a deductible, then your insurance company will refund your deductible once they collect from the other driver or his insurance.
If you did not have either collision or UM coverage, then your options have become limited.
Pay for the Damages Yourself and Learn a Valuable Life-Lesson.
Many people only carry liability insurance. Also, lawsuits are intimidating to many people. So, your only option is to pay for the damages yourself. Ultimately, you may learn a good life-lesson: You cannot necessarily trust people to do the right thing when it comes to money. Next time, you will exchange all the proper information after a car accident, including:
- The name, address, and telephone numbers of the drivers;
- Drivers license numbers;
- Insurance company name and policy number.
The Guilty Driver.
If you are the driver who is most likely at-fault in the accident, you might think you do not want a claim on your insurance. So, you agree to pay for the damages yourself. However, you face the risk of the damages being more than you bargained for. And, if the other driver decides to sue you, then you may have to report the claim to your insurance anyway so they can provide you with a legal defense.
However, if don’t pay, then you may get sued and get hit with a big judgment. And if you fail to pay the judgment, it will be recorded in the county records and may end up on your credit. More importantly, the other driver can apply to get you drivers license and car registration suspended until you pay the judgment.
Moreover, if you wait too long to notify and cooperate with your insurance company, you could waive coverage. This will result in you not getting the help from your insurance company in order to avoid all those bad things that can happen to you.
And in the End….
Your best bet is to exchange all the information and cooperate with your insurance company. If it really is a minor accident, you might not see an increase in your premiums. But even if your premiums increase, the cost will probably be far less than the financial burdens of paying out of your own pocket or incurring a judgment.
So, considering all the different scenarios, it is in everyone’s interest to exchange all the relevant information listed above. After all, that is why we buy insurance in the first place. What’s the use of paying for insurance if you are not going to enjoy it privileges and protections.