After minor car accidents, ones that result in small scrapes or bumps or little to no damage at all, many drivers wonder if they should just continue on their merry way.
However, no matter how minor a traffic incident may seem, the risks of not reporting the accident could easily come back to haunt either party involved. Worse, if the police determine that you absolutely should have reported the incident, they could potentially raise “leaving the scene of the accident” charges that carry harsh penalties, such as a one year license suspension.
So, in order to cover your bases and prevent any unwanted criminal charges or insurer penalties from affecting you, consider the following guide before deciding to drive away from a minor accident.
Talk with the Other Driver
Your first order of business, no matter what, is to have a conversation with the driver or owner of the other vehicle. Any time an accident is not reported, it must be a mutual decision. Otherwise, one party could be held at fault for leaving if the other party wished to report the incident but never had the possibility raised.
Furthermore, ignoring any potential injuries or property damage that the property owner alleges occurred can result in additional charges, not to mention that it could allow the plaintiff in a personal injury case to color you as a heartless, uncaring person.
So, always speak with the driver, exchange phone numbers and license numbers, and take the time to ask if they are feeling okay before you even consider leaving the scene. Be careful not to admit fault in any way.
Other Risks of Not Reporting the Accident
In addition to immediate risks of being accused of fleeing the scene, there are other legal risks that can come back on you if you fail to report an incident. No matter how friendly the other party appears to be, they may weave a different tale days or even weeks later. They can allege whiplash, major structural damage to their vehicle or claim that you failed in your duties to make a report. Suddenly, it becomes your word against theirs, and you may wish you had a neutral third party’s opinion at that point.
Consider failing to report an incident at your own risk; without a neutral report, the police and your insurer and the other party’s attorney could come knocking at your door unexpectedly as a result.
You could potentially lessen your risk by taking pictures of the scene and recording a statement of the other party at the time of the incident. But, if you turn out to be wrong, you could see charges no matter how well-documented the lack of damage was.
When to Report a Minor Car Accident in Oklahoma
Oklahoma state law requires individuals to file a report with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS) any time:
- There is an injury or death
- There is $300 or more in property damage
Notifying police of the incident is also highly recommended in order to produce a neutral statement from a third party and document the nature of the incident. Any time the police are not notified, either party could later decide that medical injuries or property damages are worse than they thought, and they will regret not having a report available in that event.