What to do about a car accident that wasn’t reported and for which there was no damage?

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What to do about a car accident that wasn’t reported and for which there was no damage?

A few months ago, while in bumper to bumper traffic, a lady turned into my lane (cut in front of me) very quickly and then stopped abruptly. Before I had time to react I hit her car. We both got out and looked at each other’s vehicle and agreed there was no visible damage and that we were both perfectly fine. We apologized for any inconvenience and went on our way settling the matter. They are now saying there is $3500 worth of damage to their car and I am responsible. There is no police report and there is no evidence that our encounter resulted in any of the claimed damage.

Asked on April 9, 2011 under Accident Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, be aware that if the accident was not reported in a timely manner, you  might not have your insurance coverage (assuming you had relevant coverage to begin with); most policies include various reporting and notice obligations, and if you violated them, the insurer does not have to pay. You should review your policy.

Second, anyone can claim you owe them money for damages. If you agree, you can pay; or if you don't agree or don't want to pay, you can refuse. They can then try to sue you to force you to pay--you only need to pay if sued and they win. When suing you, they will have to provide evidence of their case--that you caused the accident (an important point; you are only responsible if *at fault* at least to some degree; if the other person was entirely or almost entirely at fault, you would not have to pay) and also that the accident caused the claimed amount of damages. At the same time that she is trying to prove her case, you can attack her evidence, provide testimony in your defense, raise any defenses you might have, etc.

In short, you can make her work for it and prove her case in a court of law if she wants the money.

In between paying the claim outright and fighting it to the end would be settling, if after discussions and maybe reviewing some of her evidence (e.g. reports from a body shop or repair invoices) you and she can agree on some lesser amount that you would pay.


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