Post-car-accident advice (avoiding insurance claim)

My wife (aka: phungal) rear-ended someone about 4-5 weeks ago. Both cars were stopped, until phungal started up and drove into the other car (which was sitting still). The max speed was 5-7 MPH, our car had no damage save for some skew to the front license plate holder. The other car (according to her) had a small crack in the bumper (a Saturn sedan).

The “other party” took down insurance info as did my wife. He agree to get an estimate and give us the chance to self-pay, thus avoiding insurance company and potential raising rates.

I called him 2 weeks after and he said he had take it to his mechanic who told him to take it to the dealer to get an estimate. He was very nice and re-iterated that he would give us a chance to pay for the repair and avoid insurance claims. I have not heard anything since.

We have not contacted our insurance company about this, and assume he has not either. There is no police report (the accident took place in Montgomery County, suburban Philadelphia).


  1. Do we re-contact him with a specific “end date”?

  2. Do we trust that anything he brings forth is still valid?

  3. Do we contact our insurance company?

  4. Do we do something else?

Any advice would be appreciated.

It’ll only end in tears.

He could go to the cops today and report you as a hit and run. If he reports it to his insurance first, you look bad in the eyes of your insurer.

It is a pretty minor sounding thing, so maybe you can trust that complete stranger to do the right thing. Ask him to babysit your kids while you’re at it.


You don’t have to ever contact your insurance company do you?
I think if you can settle on the side (like you’re trying to do) then everyone is better off.
I would give him an end date to request the money so he doesn’t try to pull anything funny (like get in another minor accident and claim that you caused that damage too).
Did you take a photo of the damage? Or at least have him sign a statement describing the damage? You’re in scary territory since he could come after you a year from now or he could back into a pole tomorrow and cause more damage and then try to include that in the estimate too.

Disclaimer: I am an insurance broker in Ontario, Canada.

  1. You can give him a specific “end date” if you like. He’s not bound by it, though.
  2. Have a look at the estimate and see. If he’s saying he needs new pistons, be wary.
  3. If you have a broker, I suggest you contact them. It’s possible, depending on the laws in your area, and the insurance company with whom you deal, that reporting a “no claim accident” will have no negative effects on your insurance.
  4. That’s pretty much it.

If your insurance company finds out about this, the longer you delayed in informing them, the worse you look in their eyes.

At this point, I would deem it an excessive delay in getting back to you.

The other party may just blow it off and not pursue it any further. I wouldn’t count on that, though. They just as well could reconsider and submit it to their insurance company.

The safest thing for you to do is to contact your insurance company and tell them the whole story to date. They probably would have preferred being informed earlier, but If you’re up front with them I would imagine they’d understand you were acting in good faith. They can advise you in the best course to take as far as making a police report, re-contacting the other driver, etc.

I am not exactly sure why so many people are hesitant about contacting their insurance companies although it might be colored by the state that I live in. I have never had a major accident but I have had two failry minor at-fault ones in the past two years. One was somewhat like the OP describes except the woman turned out to be a professional victim and claimed whiplash. Two years of lawyer talk and the threat of a trial later, my insurance company settled. I don’t know how much it was but it was probably around 50K based on the prior discussions.

I got a letter from my insurance company shortly after that. I cringed when I opened it only to find that my rates had gone DOWN for the upcoming year. In a truly stupid move, I was in a huge hurry in a nearly empty parking garage when I pulled into a space not quite right. I threw it in reverse and backed up very quickly to straighen out. Behind me happened to be a BMW 5 series 2 days off of the dealer lot. I drive an SUV and the result looked like a monster truck rally where they roll right over junk cars. We called our insurance companies and that was the end of it. I never heard another word and my rates weren’t affected the next year.

Similarly, a $260,000 claim for house damage didn’t affect homeowners insurace at all either. There are lots of horror stories and folk wisdom about this out there that may not be true.

phungi, I strongly suggest calling your insurance broker. I’ve had many “off the record” conversations with clients. Remember, your broker is YOUR representative. They should give you advice based on what’s best for you, and that includes how best to handle a claim.

I can understand worrying about your rates, but a certain part of the premium you pay every year goes to your broker, so feel free to use them.

If you were my client, here’s the advice** I would give you:

  1. Pennsylvania is a No Fault state. That should mean that each person goes to their own insurer to recover any loss. The Not At Fault party does not pay a deductible.

  2. Since you are not making a claim for any damages, your insurance company will not be paying out any money. In these cases, some insurers do not alter your driving record, even though you are At Fault. Other insurers do. You need to confirm this with your broker, or your insurer if you deal with them directly.

Those two assumptions being true, paying for the other person’s damage would just be a waste of your money. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to tell my clients not to pay for other people’s damages!

**Keep in mind I don’t write insurance in the USA, and am not familiar with insurance in Pennsylvania specifically.

If he reports it as a hit and run, he’d have to explain to the cops why phungi has his phone number. Not all accidents require police presence.

I once got hit by someone who didn’t want me to report it because she was driving with a boyfriend she didn’t want her parents to know about. I got my money, but it turned into a hassle. I wouldn’t do it that way again.

Thanks for the comments… hindsight is always sobering!

I’m in insurance claims here in the US. I’ll second the advice to talk with your agent or broker. They can help you and may do something like turn this in as a “for information only” report. Talk with them about No Fault and the reporting requirements of your policy. If PA is a no fault state you may owe nothing to the other guy.

As to reporting this, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I thought I could take care of this myself, it was just a bump.” The last thing you want to do not report this and then be surprised 2 years from now when the other guy files suit saying he has neck and back injuries and the accident caused them. Your insurance company may issue some concerning letters about late notice and voluntarily assuming liability.

If the other driver was at fault and you agreed to handle it privately, I’d be worried about not hearing from him after several weeks. Since you’re the one who has to pay, what are you worried about? Maybe he hasn’t gotten around to it because he’s busy and it’s just a cracked bumper. Maybe he’ll decide it’s too much hassle and just drop it. I guess I don’t see why you want to press the issue.

Also, if you were in California, I’d definitely advise against calling your insurance company. We have what’s called a “good driver discount”, which is really code for “merely expensive rates, not criminally astronomical” – reporting an accident would likely lose you your good driver status and cost you thousands of dollars in increased premiums until it dropped off your record. Having learned from painful experience, any accident I have from now on that’s my fault and costs less than $2000 or so will be handled privately if at all possible.

A few suggestions:
Talk to your insurance agent and ask what the companies policy is regarding claims and raising your premium, ask him if that information is part of your policy, or if it’s in writing somewhere else. Also ask for a guide on what to do in case of accident. Most companies provide a card that you can carry in your vehicle.
You might also check w/ your state insurance commission, they sometimes regulate perameters on rate increases.
Put one of those disposible cameras in your car, you could replace it every year on your birthday.
Check w/ your state DMV on accident reporting requirements, they vary from state to state in the U.S.
I keep my reg., proof of ins., and other items in a zip lock bag in my glove box.

No, all you have to do (at least in CA) to avoid “hit & run” is to stop and exchange info, which the OP clearly has.

In general, unless there is an injury (again, CA law) not only do you not have to call the cops, you should not call the cops (YMMV, you often should if if one car can’t get off the road or there is debris, etc). Now you do have to file a report (which your agent usually does for you)if the accident meet certain requirements, but failure to file that report does not turn the accident into “hit & run”. YMMV, IANAL.

Really? My daughter was stopped on an exit ramp and was hit by someone who was pushed into her by the car behind him. She didn’t hit the car in front of her. Our rates didn’t go up at all. Not all accidents are so clearly not your fault as that one.

But you see the accident was clearly not your daughters fault, as opposed to the Illustrious Giraffe who is talking about accidents that are his fault. “any accident I have from now on that’s my fault”.

In CA, if the accident is shown not to be your fault, there is no hit on your rates (there are rare exceptions)- but, if the fault is merely unassigned or not determined, then there is a hit. In other words, you must show you are “innocent” the insurance company does not have to prove you are at fault. Generally if someone hits you from behind, in CA the presumption is that it’s the fault of the dude who did the rear-ending, however.

late at night he got in his car to leave when a car drove up and parked behind him with no lights on, My son went to reverse and hit the car behind him, the car must have been extremely close behind my sons car because he hit it as soon as he started to reverse. :rolleyes:
Were they both illegally parked as the cars were blocking any cars that would have needed to turn at the end of the court? :confused:

You’ve been lucky.

I’ve never had a claim for at-fault with a car accident so I can’t say, but when we moved to a new house 10ish years back, we had a lot of trouble getting our homeowners’ insurance moved over because we’d had 2 smallish claims a couple of years before. OK, one wasn’t that small (3,000ish dollars) but it was something clearly out of our control (major windstorm, blew down the chimney).

We’ve had bad experiences with reporting claims WHEN WE WEREN’T AT FAULT. My wife was rear ended in circumstances similar to the OP’s. Except all the very minor damage was on the front bumper of the other car. The idiot doing the rear ending called the police, who shaking their heads told the two parties to exchange info. Similar thing happened to me a couple of years later. This time our bumper was repainted and their insurance paid a few hundred dollars.

No hit to the insurance, but when we sold the car no one wanted to buy it because it had been in two accidents according to carfax. It easily cost us $1000 in resale.

I have had one at fault accident in Massachusetts, apart from that a clean driving record for 25 years. I paid over $500 in additional premiums (total) over the next three years. The damage from the accident? $800. There were some scratches on the bumper of the car I rear ended, plus two tiny crescent shaped indentations from the screws holding the license plate. They replaced the bumper cover, because of the indentations. On a twelve year old car.

Oh yeah, and our insurance agent told me that they cannot do “information only” calls. No matter how friendly she may seem, she is an agent of the insurer, not the insured.