How to handle insurance after a minor accident?
December 5, 2012 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I was involved in a minor car accident on Saturday. There were no injuries and only minor damage, so we decided not to use insurance. Today, however, I got a letter from the other driver's insurance company requesting that I contact them. Lots of complicating details, and not sure how to proceed.

Accident happened at an on-ramp at night in heavy rain. Other vehicle was a pickup with two people, and I was driving with my wife. Both vehicles had drifted towards each other, but as far as my wife and I could tell, we were still in our lane.

Our car had a long but shallow dent/scrape on the driver-side door. Also, the side mirror was knocked ajar but still attached. The pickup had a more circular dent on the passenger-side door, but judging from the shape and patchy paint in that area, it's possible that was from a past collision. They had a large, solid metal bumper over the stock one that extended a little past the sides of the truck, so it's likely that my car contacted with that. Also, both people in the truck said that they didn't receive any damage on their side.

Took one picture of each of our doors, exchanged info, and left. We did not contact the police, and there were no witnesses. I opted not to get my dent fixed but had a shop paint it over.

Today (4 days later), I received a letter from the other driver's insurance company (AAA). It says that he submitted a claim and they need to ask me about what happened. I haven't contacted my insurance company (Progressive) at all.

I know that I completely botched this, but what's the best way to handle it now? It was a low-speed side collision, so there were absolutely no injuries. It seems like only my car was damaged, so I don't understand why the other driver filed a claim. Can I handle everything through the other driver's insurance? Will that affect my rates? Or do I need to contact my own insurance too? If both, in what order, and what do I say? This is my first accident, so I don't know how this is supposed to work.
posted by mshrike to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Contact your insurance and let them handle it. Part of paying insurance is so they will deal with the other party.
posted by zippy at 9:27 PM on December 5, 2012 [10 favorites]

Yes, contact your insurance company before you do anything. Do NOT communicate with the other driver's insurance company or the other driver, refer all questions to your own insurance. Ask your insurance company if you need to contact law enforcement regarding the accident.
posted by HuronBob at 9:30 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cover your ass: now that his insurance company is involved, get yours involved, too. Call them right now if you like -- many companies will take your report over the phone 24/7. Be scrupulously honest, but also be direct in your comments,. Don't say, "I think I was in my lane." Say, "I was in my lane." The insurance will deal with this, and they'll even prompt you to get a police report or fill out DMV paperwork if it's necessary.

Don't worry about rates right now. Since this guy wasn't honest with you, who knows what he's reporting or claiming. It's time for you to face up to it and fight back. This is what insurance is for.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:30 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm concerned that things will go badly with my insurance because I didn't report the accident, which took place 4 days ago. Will this be a problem?
posted by mshrike at 9:54 PM on December 5, 2012

The problem is that if you deal directly with the other insurance company and they make a finding that you were at fault then you will have a very hard time doing anything about and could be on the hook for whatever the other side is claiming is your fault.

There is also the possibility of a finding of partial fault. i was involved in a parking lot accident that I believe was the other party's fault, the final finding was 25% my fault and, since it didn't raise my rates, I didn't argue.

If it were me, I would call the insurance company now and assume that they aren't going to make a big deal out of the short delay but I have no real information behind that assumption. Even if there is an issue, the benefits would seem to outweigh the costs.
posted by metahawk at 10:02 PM on December 5, 2012

They're not going to make a big deal out of it -- people do this all the time. Say what you told us: both people in the other car said there was no damage, and you decided to deal with your damage yourself. That's true, and it's not a violation on your part.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:07 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reporting late is no big deal. I was in a low-damage fender bender last year that wasn't reported for 60+ days, and there was no crazy backlash, even though it was my fault.
posted by itesser at 10:10 PM on December 5, 2012

Call your insurance company. Stop making a big deal out of this. I mean, what are your options? Relax. Filing late does not imply fault. This was 4 days ago, not 4 weeks ago.
posted by phaedon at 10:19 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

The delay won't be a problem. Just call them and be prepared to make your statement. You didn't completely botch this at all - getting photos was smart.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:19 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Four days later, eh, they won't be terribly bothered. What will be a bother is if you don't report it at all and then the other insurance company goes all lawyery on your ass.

You pay your insurance company, and they work for you.

Call them up and let them earn it.
posted by zippy at 11:03 PM on December 5, 2012

Looks like there's a clear consensus. I'll call up my insurance company and take it from there. Thanks everyone, I'm feeling much better now!
posted by mshrike at 11:20 PM on December 5, 2012

Don't worry, your plan of action has been pretty reasonable and prompt. The levels of stupid that insurance adjusters deal with on a daily basis is astounding, you aren't even close to on that radar.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:42 AM on December 6, 2012

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