Not all vehicle accidents result in bodily injuries and catastrophic property damage. In fact, the majority of car accidents are minor fender benders that may only result in a few hundred dollars worth of property damage. If you get into a minor accident in a company vehicle, therefore, you may be tempted to not report the incident to your insurance provider to avoid a possible increase in your premiums. Though this is not advisable for a number of reasons, here are a few tips for protecting yourself in this situation.
Know the Risks
The first thing you should do is make sure you clearly understand the risks involved in not reporting an accident. You will avoid unpleasant surprises, and this may help you take action to protect yourself and your business.
In some states, you are required to report all accidents with certain characteristics. In Oregon, for example, it's mandatory to report all accidents to the DMV where there was $1,500 or more in property damage and/or someone died or was injured. Failure to report the accident may result in suspension of your driver's license. Your state may have similar laws, so it's essential to check.
Insurance providers also usually have mandatory reporting requirements. If you don't tell the company about the accident, it may not cover any claims that arise at a later date, and you would be stuck paying the other driver out of your pocket for damages and losses. Additionally, the company may cancel your insurance for violating its policy.
Protecting yourself from the consequences of not reporting an accident means preparing for the worst thing that could happen, and the worst thing that could happen in this case is the individual sues you at a later date for compensation. Therefore, you need to gather as much evidence as possible to support your version of event just in case you need to go to court.
First, take pictures of the damage to the vehicle and the driver. This may prevent the driver from claiming his or her injuries or the property damage was more extensive than it really was. Second, write down or record any statements made at the scene that may be useful. For instance, if the person says he or she didn't notice the stop sign, this could help prove fault.
If you and the other party come to an agreement about paying for damages, be sure to create a written contract. Verbal agreements are legally binding, but they can be difficult to prove in court. Having a piece of paper outlining your respective responsibilities can make it much easier to litigate the case if someone fails to follow through as agreed.
Save all of the information for at least until the statute of limitation for filing personal injury lawsuits expires in your state, and maybe even a year or two afterwards just to be on the safe side.
For more information about this issue or help with business litigation, contact an attorney near you.