It happens every day. Someone’s driving down the freeway, a fender bender happens, and nobody is injured. In some cases, the damage itself might be so minor it doesn’t seem worthy of an insurance claim. In these situations, many people wonder if they still need to report it. You can report accidents to one of two places, and the answer to this question depends on which entity you’re referring to.

Do I Need to Report it to Law Enforcement?

Whether or not you have to report the accident to law enforcement depends on more than just the facts of the accident, but also on where you live. Some states require you to report an accident if any injuries occur. Other states require you to report it even if there aren’t injuries but the property damage exceeds a certain value. (Usually this value is either $2,500 or $1,000.). Las Vegas on the other hand, recently issued the “No Injury – No Response” where police will not respond to an accident scene unless there are injuries.

Because state laws heavily dictate what you’ll have to report, it’s crucial that you exchange contact information and insurance information with the other driver at the scene. This exchange isn’t only required by law (in all states), it’s also necessary in order to settle any issues that might arise later on.

If the other driver won’t cooperate, or you have any reason to believe they don’t have insurance, you should absolutely involve law enforcement. Even if the other driver is willing to exchange information but there’s a good faith dispute between the two of you, that’s also a good reason to involve law enforcement.

Of course, any time there’s an injury you should call the police. If there aren’t injuries but the weather is bad and 911 tells you that, barring injuries, they can’t get out to you to take information, you should exchange information with the other driver and see if a local convenience store or gas station has copies of accident forms. This is a common practice, especially in rural areas.

What About the Insurance Company?

Most people don’t want to report accidents to their insurance company. This is usually because they think their rates will go up, or because they want to try to work things out personally with the other person to avoid the hassle. However, every state requires you to report any accident to your insurance company. Failure to do so can cause significant issues or penalties down the road.

One reason you have to report it to your insurance company is that some injuries arise later on. If you don’t report the accident and the other driver wakes up with neck pain the next day and files a claim, you could be in trouble. Not only will your insurance company be unhappy that you didn’t file a claim, they can’t help you because they don’t have adequate information.

Some people claim damage or injury weeks or months down the road, stating they didn’t notice it at the time of the accident. If you hadn’t reported the original accident, you may have forfeited certain legal protections because you didn’t do your due diligence.

Another possible situation that could arise is you and the other driver agree to “work it out”, but then the other driver thinks better of it later and reports the accident without telling you. All of these situations are bad for you, and can result in fines, penalties, and even legal trouble.

You should always report any accident to your insurance company the minute it happens. Try to exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. You don’t always need to involve the police, especially if injuries aren’t involved. However, be sure to check your local laws regarding vehicle accidents before deciding not to involve law enforcement.