We all know that when we are involved in a car accident we are supposed to report it. But not many people know what the consequences of not reporting a car accident are. They could be rather minor or they could be fairly extreme, depending on the details of the accident in question.
But did you know that you aren’t required to report every single accident? If not, don’t worry, we’ll be starting by looking at what accidents you have to report and which you can just move past. This will then bring us into a discussion on what happens when you fail to report a car accident in Florida. Finally, we’ll talk about how insurance companies play a part in this discussion and when you have to report your accidents to them.
When Are You Required By Law to Report an Accident?
Florida law does not require you to report every accident to the police. This would be absurd when you consider the fact that 99% of accidents are minor collisions or simply fender benders. These hardly scrape the paint, so why should they be of any concern to law enforcement?
But Florida state law is clear that you do have to contact law enforcement for certain accidents. The accidents that you have to report to the police will have one of the following characteristics:
- The accident in question resulted in bodily injuries
- The accident in question resulted in an individual’s death
- The accident in question resulted in property damage in excess of $500 or more
First, keep in mind that it can be hard to judge whether or not a particular accident is worth $500 or more. A beater of a car may be able to replace a few parts for that price while it wouldn’t cover scratched paint on a high-end sports car.
The actual damage may end up being less than $500, after repairs, but if it appears that it is damage in excess of $500 or more then it must be reported. However, it’s recommended that you err on the side of caution since repairs can often get expensive quickly.
You are supposed to contact the police as soon as possible. This means that you should call from the scene of the accident rather than leave and call later. In some cases a police officer will be called to the scene, but many accidents resolve by exchanging information with the other driver and calling the police to report the accident before leaving. Making this call would fulfill your duty to report an accident.
What’s the Penalty for Not Reporting a Car Accident in Florida?
Not reporting an accident is a fairly minor offense. Perhaps you were on your way to work and the other driver didn’t seem particularly concerned about it themselves and so you left. Doing so would result in a $30 fine.
But it is very, very important to understand that not reporting a car accident is different from leaving the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene of the accident is also known as a hit and run.
A hit and run occurs when a driver fails to follow the proper procedure at an accident. When you get into an accident you are supposed to:
- Pull the vehicle off the road at a safe spot and get out
- Exchange information with the other driver, including showing your driver’s license if requested
- Call the police and provide them with your information
In cases where an individual crashes into a parked car or otherwise unattended property, they must locate the property owner or securely attach a note with their name, registration number, and address.
If there was an injury then you are supposed to render reasonable assistance by calling for medical assistance or taking them to the hospital if medical assistance is not possible.
The penalties for leaving the scene of an accident are much higher than simply not reporting a car accident:
- If the accident involved an injury you could be facing up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a fine up to $5,000
- Accidents involving death could result in up to thirty years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Accidents involving property damage could result in sixty days in jail and up to a $500 fine
You would also be liable for damages and may be made to pay them as part of your judgment.
Do You Have to Notify Your Insurance Company?
Your insurance company most likely included a clause in your contract that gives you an obligation to report accidents to them. How severe the accident must be should be mentioned in the policy. This would mean that even if you didn’t plan on filing an insurance claim, you would still be required to report the accident.
However, keep in mind that if you do want to file a claim with them then it is best to contact an attorney ahead of time. Your insurance company has it in their best interest to try to convince you to take a lower payout than you deserve. Working with an attorney can help to keep them honest, or more honest at least, so you can get a fair payout for your damages.
It’s worth noting that you have no obligation to contact the other driver’s insurance company. That driver has a policy with them, you do not. They may try to get you to speak to them as a way of pushing the blame onto you to increase their payout but you have no obligation to help them in this.
Should I Speak To an Attorney If I Didn’t Report a Car Accident?
If you didn’t report a car accident, but you didn’t leave the scene of the accident, then you should just pay the $30 fine. The amount is so low that it really isn’t worth getting concerned with.
But if you are charged with leaving the scene of an accident then you need an attorney. This is a criminal charge that can be fairly costly and nobody wants to spend time behind bars.