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S. Huband, Esq.
S. Huband, Esq., Attorney
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 996
Experience:  Experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
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if one were to wreck their car on the way home fromt the bar,

Customer Question

if one were to wreck their car on the way home fromt the bar, late at night, and not file a police report this would likely look suspicious to insurance companies, how much information truly has to be provided to them? might it be best to pay for the damage yourself?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

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

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

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"

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Relist: Incomplete answer.
the answer was great, although he didn't stick around for my follow-up question
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Under NC law, all accidents that involve death, injury or property damage exceeding $1,000 must be reported to the Police. They will look at the total damage between your car and the guard rail as well in coming up with that determination of value. If you did not leave your car on the side of the road and you took it home then the chance the police will get involved now are slim to none.

The insurance company is not going to go look for video footage. They are going to take your story about the accident and as long as it is believable they are not going to the bar or anywhere. They hear stories like I was driving on the road an animal came out I swerved to avoid it and hit the rail or whatever, is common to them. Unless you have someone calling the police who are going to report a different story to contradict you or unless there is a police report to contradict you, it is your word against nobody else.

As far as getting the car fixed yourself and not involving the insurance company, that is up to you.

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Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 88315
Experience: Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
Law Educator, Esq. and 3 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

- I apologize, first time user, I wasn't really aware of how to use the service. I will certainly rate your first answer if you will answer my follow-up question. the more opinions the better


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"


 


 

Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hello again, and thank YOU for your speedy response. No need to apologize, I did not mean to come across as "fussing" at you. I try my best to help people, and (understandably) hope to be credited for answering questions.

I do not know whether the police will try to find footage of you leaving the bar, etc. I seriously doubt it. As the other expert said, it is PROBABLY your word against anyone else's as to how your car was damaged. The insurance company will PROBABLY never know the "real" details of what exactly happened or how it happened. I just shy away from making blanket statements of fact, i.e., "No, don't worry one bit...the police will never figure this one out!" You very like have nothing to worry about in this regard, but since there is a possibility (albeit a small one) that the police could come question you, I just wanted to make sure you understood what to do and how to handle the police in the unlikely event they try to talk to you.

It sounds like another worry you have is that reporting the damage to your insurance company could cause further investigation into the situation and you would be charged with DUI, reckless driving, etc. Again, I seriously doubt this will happen. Even if you confessed to the police, "Yes, I'm guilty, I was drunk as a skunk when my car got damaged!" it would still be hard to prove the case against you (DUI) in court because there would likely be no other evidence to corroborate your confession. Proving hit and run or property damage, however, is a different story. Those claims COULD be corroborated, and with a "confession" by you, you very well could be charged.

Going further about the DUI issue, the government has to have SOME evidence that a person committed a crime; in turn, the police usually get people to THEN try to confess to the crime. Some evidence + confession of commission of the crime = conviction. So, that's why I was so adamant about you not talking to the police. That greatly reduces (if not eliminates) your chance of being charged with anything.

I had a client years ago who left a club late at night, lost control of his vehicle, and wound up crashing through a fence and into a person's yard. He abandoned his car, ran home, and called me the next day once the police started calling him. Fortunately, he was smart enough to tell them he had an attorney and had nothing to say.

During the investigation, the police figured out WHO the car belonged to, and it was obvious that the damage to the people's fence and yard was caused by my client's car, but NO ONE could answer the question of WHO was driving the car at the time the damage occurred. Cars don't get charged with crimes; people do. If my client had said, "Yes, you're right, I was driving the car, I was drunk, and I lost control and ran into those people's yard and damaged their fence..." then he would have been in a world of trouble. Without that confession, the police could not charge him. Because his car was impounded, I went with the client to the police station (and then the impound lot), told the detectives emphatically that my client was going to say NOTHING about the incident, and demanded they release his car. (Which they did.)

Hence, it was this incident I had in my mind when I warned you about not talking to the police. That's just smart thinking, anyway. It is rare that a person (who could potentially be charged with a crime) talks to the police and that conversation eventually helps him. It is usually the opposite.

Thank you again for this opportunity. In future, I am happy to help you. Just ask for me if you wish. Take care and good luck!

Shuband
S. Huband, Esq., Attorney
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 996
Experience: Experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
S. Huband, Esq. and 3 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thanks so much for your positive feedback! I am glad I and your other expert were able to help. Good luck!

Sincerely,
Shuband

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