What can I do if I was involved in an auto accident but didn’t report it and now the other party is suing me?

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What can I do if I was involved in an auto accident but didn’t report it and now the other party is suing me?

The other party, a driver and a passenger, slid through snow and veered into my lane. I was unable to come to complete stop, but I minimized the damage by slowing down upon a T-bone impact. The damages were minimal (my car’s quote is $525), no information was exchanged, and the police were not involved. I wasn’t thinking clearly as it was my first accident, and I realize I should’ve reported. The other party is attempting to file a claim against me despite our agreement, probably using my license plate number. Can this claim be substantiated at all? Can a police report be filed after this incident almost a week ago?

Asked on January 18, 2016 under Accident Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

A police report is not necessary to sue someone: you can be sued even if no report was filed. Had a police report been filed at the time, then based on what you write, it would have been helpful evidence to you, since it should have shown that you were not at fault (or at least that the other party, who slid into you, was at fault, too.) Without it, to prevail at trial, you'd need to convince a judge by your testimony that you were driving carefully and it was the othe driver who was driving negligently, or carelessly. That may be difficult, since they will presumably have two witnesses (driver and passenger) to your one and you have no other documentation to fall back upon. 
First thing to do is to contact your insure and let them know there's a claim against you: if you don't notify your insurer, you may lose the benefit of coverage (policies generally require notice to your insurer once you know of a claim) and anyway, protecting you from claims is why you pay for insurance: let your insurer do its job.
If a lawsuit is actually filed against you, since the other car damaged you, you should probably file a counterclaim for the $525--as long as you'd be going to court, there's no reason not to put in your own claim.


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