Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
Thank you for the opportunity to assist you!The big picture is, no, you do not have to file a police report every time you have a wreck or otherwise damage your car. In fact, many states do not require police to investigate a run of the mill collision unless 1) someone requests it, or 2) there is personal injury or death.However, what and how much you tell your insurance company may be a different matter. Go back and read your insurance policy. Look for the section that tells you when or under what circumstances your policy requires you to report damage to your car. This may vary according to state law, the company itself, or the terms of your individual policy.Normally, a person must report damage or some sort of "issue" with their car when there is a possible claim by the car's owner or there is damage to someone else's person or property. In other words, if I run my car in the ditch and do some minor damage to my car, I probably don't have to report it unless I am going to utilize the "comprehensive" or "collision" portion of my policy to fix my car. But, if I run into the ditch and hit another car, hit a person, knock over a mail box, etc., then generally I would HAVE to report this to my insurance company so that the company has adequate notice of any claim I might make or someone might make against me or my policy. If the company doesn't get notice, they could deny coverage, which means I'd have to pay for the damage out of my own pocket. (Then what's the point of having insurance?)CAUTION #1: Do not lie to your insurance company. If you lie about the circumstances regarding how the damage to your car occurred, or whether or not other property was damaged or a person or people were injured, it could be a state and/or federal crime.CAUTION #2: Most states have a hit and run statute. Hit and run occurs when a person driving a vehicle causes damage to someone else's person or vehicle or other property AND fails to stop and identify themselves and/or share insurance information. Hit and run is often a misdemeanor but it CAN be a felony, if there is significant damage or a person is injured.Obviously I do not know how, if at all, your car was damaged coming home from the bar. However, if you also wound up damaging someone else's property (or person) when you damaged your own car, you COULD potentially be charged with hit and run. Since I do not know what state you are in, I cannot talk any more in depth about hit and run, other than to warn you this is a possible consequence.What to do now?Well, it sounds like your car is banged up. Get it fixed. If you call the insurance company to report the damage, they will ask you lots of questions about where it happened, how it happened, when, etc. They will also ask if you got hurt or if anyone else got hurt, and if anyone else's property was damaged. It's your decision what you choose to say to these people, but understand that if you do not tell the truth (or you lie and get caught) it may be legal trouble for you.Second, and perhaps MOST important, if the police come around and want you to talk about the damage to your car, how it happened, etc., DO NOT SAY ANYTHING. If you damaged someone else's property, the other person might have gotten your license plate, a description of your car, etc., and then called the police. The police may already believe you are responsible for damaging someone else's property, if they tie you in with the vehicle. But cars don't get charged with crimes, people do, and the cops may not know WHO was driving your car, even if they figure out it was YOUR car which caused someone else injury or property damage. If you say, "Yes, officer, it was me, I was driving..." then congratulations, you have just allowed the cops to charge you with a crime they probably could NOT have proven otherwise. All due to your confession.How to deal with the police? Easy: "I wish to speak with an attorney before I answer your questions." If necessary, repeat until they understand that you will not be saying anything. End of story.You NEVER have to talk to the police. Exercise that right if they ask you questions. DO NOT LET THEM COERCE YOU INTO TALKING. Stand your ground.I hope this response helps you. Good luck with this situation. If you find my response helpful, please rate it positively so that I can receive credit for my work.Thanks,Shuband
Thanks so much, very informative. So I guess the big concern for me is when they ask all of the questions concerning the details of the accident, and I say I left X bar, are they going to attempt to find footage of me leaving or prove intoxication? I'm in NC and the only thing damaged aside from my car was the road railing, and I wouldn't really classify it as "damaged"
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