By not making a police report, you jeopardize your ability to make a mini tort claim for vehicle damage, and perhaps even a No Fault PIP or UM (uninsured motorist) claim if you’re injured
Probably at least a hundred times a week, one driver bumps another and the at-fault driver says he will pay for everything, as long the police report is avoided. Recently, I received the following all-too-common question from someone whose car had been damaged in a crash that wasn’t her fault:
“I was in an accident last week with a landscaping truck. The person who hit me called his boss who said he would take care of damages. We did not call police. The person gave me his boss’s name and phone. He also wrote a statement saying he backed up into me, but I haven’t been able to get insurance information from him. I’m really concerned because he caused nearly $2,000 in damage to my car when he backed up into me.”
This is a terrible situation. And as a lawyer, I hear this or something similar to this all the time. The problem this person faces is that, as the police were not called and no police report was made, he may be out of luck in getting the at-fault driver to pay up for the car damage he caused.
And it can get much worse than this. If he has a minor sore neck that he thought might go away with a few over-the-counter pills, and instead that neck injury becomes progressively worse, he could be in for an ugly surprise from both his own auto No Fault insurance company if he waits too long to file a No Fault application for benefits or if the other driver was driving with no insurance and he has an uninsured motorist policy that contains policy language that voids coverage for this car accident.
As I will discuss below, this is only one of the unfortunate consequences that can occur when an auto accident victim fails to make a police report.
Mini tort: Paying for vehicle damage repair costs
As an auto accident attorney, I always tell family, friends, colleagues and clients that one of the most important things a person can do after a motor vehicle accident is call the police and make a police report.
In a situation such as the one above, the police report is going to be extremely helpful in a successful mini tort claim.
And not reporting a car accident? The absence of a police report can make the mini tort claim an uphill – and, often, futile – endeavor.
For instance, in the situation above, because the accident victim did not call the police and make a police report, he may be deemed (by a judge or an insurance adjuster) to have “inadequate proof” that a car accident ever occurred, or that the other driver was at-fault, which are both essential elements to proving that one is entitled to recover damages under the Michigan mini tort law.
Additionally, without a police report, the other driver may be able to successfully argue either that:
- The motor vehicle accident never occurred; and/or
- The auto accident victim’s vehicle was already damaged and/or the damage wasn’t as severe as the auto accident victim is claiming.
Under Michigan’s mini tort law, which is part of Michigan’s No Fault auto insurance laws, victims of an auto accident can recover a maximum of $1,000 for vehicle damage from the driver who caused the vehicle damage, but only if they can prove the driver was “at-fault.”
To learn more, please check out Michigan Auto Law’s “Michigan Mini Tort” page.
Other reasons that a post-crash police report is important
As I discussed in my January 27, 2013, blog post, “Why it’s important to call the police to come out for all auto accident scenes,” there are other important reasons why auto accident victims need to make a police report as soon as possible after a crash:
- Without an accident report on file, the other party can claim they were not at-fault for causing the car accident, or they can deny the car accident ever took place – which are both critical issues in the event the auto accident victim files a claim for No Fault benefits and/or pursues a claim for pain and suffering compensation.
- Some auto insurance companies may deny your claim for auto No Fault insurance benefits without a police accident report on file. This means you will lose your right to No Fault wage loss for up to three years, and coverage of your medical expenses and bills if you need medical treatment.
- If it turns out you are injured more seriously than you at first think (which happens all the time with many whiplash and soft tissue injuries and disc injuries) and the other driver does not have liability bodily injury insurance, many insurance companies require a police report and a claim for uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage to be made within a certain period of time. Again, as an auto accident lawyer, I’ve seen some policies shorten this notice for uninsured motorist reporting to as short as 30 days, and as these are contractual policies, the courts in Michigan will sadly likely enforce the contract provisions as written. That means if you did suffer a serious injury, you lose the right to recover any compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering damages.