Maryland Law Reporting Accidents

maryland minor accident

Thankfully, most car accidents are minor fender benders in which no one gets hurt, and there is little or no property damage. Most of these are rear-end accidents. In 2018, car bumper technology has risen to the point where it takes a pretty solid hit to do any significant property damage. So while you may still see scrapes and scratches in these minor crashes, you are unlikely to see real property damage or a significant dent. Sometimes, and the science is pretty clear on this, people can still suffer substantial injuries even in the absence of this property damage.

If you have been in a car accident in Maryland, a common question is whether you need to report the car crash to police or your insurance company?

Maryland Law on Reporting Car Accidents

Maryland law does not require you to report every car accident to the police. There are six circumstances when you are required to report a motor vehicle accident:

The smart move is almost invariably to contact the police any time there is a motor vehicle accident even if it seems insignificant at the time of the crash.

  • An occupant of one of the vehicles is hurt;
  • A driver in the crash is drunk
  • A vehicle needs to be towed
  • A driver cannot or refuses to exchange information
  • A driver is not licensed
  • A driver flees the scene of the collision

Even though the law does not require reporting accidents that do not meet one of this six-prong test, some Maryland drivers still report the collision to the police. Why? First, if there is some property damage, there could be a liability dispute and one of the issues may well be whether the accident ever occurred. In this case, you want to have documented evidence that the accident took place so that you and your insurance company are armed to argue that the other driver was responsible for the accident. If you do call the police, they might not do a full police report. But they will often do what is called an "exchange of information" which accomplishes your goal: proving the collision occurred.

rear end minor crash

There is often a delay between the time of the car accident and when the occupants begin to experience pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. Serious injuries, including objectively verifiable injuries like herniated discs, often do not involve immediate pain after the collision.

Why does reporting the claim to police matter in these cases? One of the first things an insurance company defending a claim is going to tell us during settlement talks -- and potentially the judge or jury if it comes to it -- is that the accident was so insignificant the victim did not even bother to call the police.

Another upside of reporting the collision to the police is that the at-fault driver is often more honest at the scene of the accident. The police will often ask them the "What happened?" question and they are more likely to give an honest answer to an authority figure then they will be to you and their insurance company after the accident.

Am I Required to Report My Accident to My Insurance Company?

Contractually, most car insurance policies with the major insurers -- like State Farm, GEICO, or Allstate -- require you to report any car accident. If you have an accident in Maryland that is clearly not your fault, there is little reason you would not report the occurrence of the car accident to your insurance company.

You are not required to notify the at-fault insurance company of a claim. You are also not obligated to -- nor should you -- talk to them without speaking to a lawyer first.

Your insurer might also require a recorded statement. Maryland law is unclear as to whether your insurance company can deny your claim based on the refusal to give a recorded statement about your accident.

Generally, for injury victims, we comply with the request for a recorded statement but require that the victim is allowed to answer the questions with their lawyer, usually in a phone call.

The Risk of Not Reporting a Claim

Ultimately, in spite of the contractual requirement that you report a claim, people do it all of the time and get away with it. If you just handle it yourself, the insurance company is unlikely ever to know. Why do people do this? The at-fault driver usually convinces the victim not to report the claim because of the fear of increased car insurance rates.

But this is just too risky for BOTH the victim and the at-fault driver, particularly if there are injuries. Let's say you agree with the at-fault driver not to report the claim. If he does not compensate you as you agreed, his insurance company may deny the claim, leaving you without anyone to compensate you for your loss. Conversely, the at-fault driver might be stuck with a huge claim from the victim, and his insurance company might refuse to stand behind the claim because it was initially unreported.

The take-home message is clear: the upside of not reporting a claim is significantly outweighed by the risks.

Getting a Lawyer for Your Injury Claim

If you have been in a car accident in Maryland, you should contact an attorney immediately. You may have as little as 180 days to take the legal steps necessary to preserve your claim. To learn how our Maryland car accident lawyers may be able to help you get compensation, complete our free case review form today or call 800-553-8082.

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