What do you do if you’re in a not-at-fault car accident and the other driver offers to pay your damages out-of-pocket rather than filing a claim with their insurance company? Let’s take a look at when it’s okay and when it’s a bad idea to accept a car accident paid out-of-pocket.
If there’s any doubt in your mind that you, the other driver, or any passengers in either vehicle could have a possible injury, you want to contact your insurance company immediately. When there is a possibility of an injury it’s hard to say what the medical costs could be. Also, injury claims can be a lot more complex than property damage claims.
Severity of damage
If there are no injuries and only minor damages to your car, then the risk is lower than if there are several thousands of dollars in damage. For example, someone bumps into you in a parking lot at a low speed and puts some scratches on your bumper. If you feel confident the repairs are going to cost less than $500 then you have a relatively small amount of money to lose should the other person end up not paying you.
On the other hand, if you’re not sure the extent of the damages you’re better off contacting your insurance company. Sometimes it’s hard to know if there is structural or internal damage in addition to cosmetic damage.
Trust in the other party
If you agree with the other driver to have them pay for your vehicle damages out-of-pocket you are placing a lot of trust in that person. They can change their mind later on and claim they weren’t at-fault. The higher the cost of damages the more likely this can happen. So, just remember you’re making a judgement call about the trustworthiness of the other party. When in doubt, always contact your insurance company.
A good way to make sure you get a legitimate phone number from the other driver is to ask them to text you so you can save their number in your phone. It’s also wise to take pictures rather than jotting down notes. Take pictures of the following:
- Driver License (front and back)
- Insurance ID card
- Damage on both cars
- License plate on both cars
- Surrounding area
What if the other person never responds?
If you’ve provided your damage estimates to the other driver, we recommend only giving them a few days to respond and provide payment to you. The longer you wait the less likelihood they’re going to make good on their promise. If they haven’t provided payment within a few days contact your insurance company. You should still be okay since you have thorough documentation about the accident. Remember, always error on the cautious side if someone wants a car accident paid out-of-pocket.
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