To File or not to File...the $50,000 Question of the Day
If you have been involved in a minor fender-bender, you might ask yourself the question that thousands of people like yourself have asked, “Should I file a police report on this or not?” Or “Should I file an insurance claim or not?”
The thought behind not reporting is that you want to try to give the other driver a break and not have them get a ticket and not have it negatively impact their insurance rates. So, you think, if you don’t file a police report then you can settle outside the insurance company. Well, although that is nice of you to think of the other person, I wouldn’t recommend doing that since you first need to worry about you and your ability to care for and feed your family. Even if you are a single person, you need to make sure you were not permanently injured from your car crash. If you don’t call the police immediately, then the chances increase that crucial evidence will not be preserved, making it much harder to prove your case when you need to take it to trial. That is why it is so important to call the police immediately. They will take photographs, record measurements, interview witnesses, and gather other crucial data so that, in the future, should you need to have a trial to determine whether the other person was negligent or not, and that due to that negligence, you were damaged, whether temporarily or permanently, and whether a disability or disfigurement. Even if a person had a minor fender-bender, they may have experienced whiplash, which, although no bones were necessarily broken, the tendons and ligaments in their neck still may have been so stretched that it caused permanent flexibility issues and triggers pain in various regions of the neck and back sporadically, which greatly diminish a person’s quality of life and ability to earn. And even if the person that hit you is dead-broke, it is still important to file both a police report as well as an insurance claim because the law requires all drivers to have insurance, and in Utah the minimum coverage per person is $50,000. Many soft-tissue cases can at least exhaust the other driver’s minimum coverage of $50,000 (called a “policy limits” case). Although the innocent driver could go after the negligent driver’s individual assets once that person’s policy limits had been exhausted, usually the innocent driver won’t because they realize its very difficult and often times economically infeasible to spend the time and resources to collect a judgment against an assetless defendant.
So yes, you need to file both a police report as well as an insurance claim, even if you think the other driver is so broke they cannot afford toothpaste. All drivers are required to carry a minimum of $50,000 per person so you can at least get that, if not more, especially if you have underinsured coverage which could be substantial. Underinsured coverage is the extra premium a person can pay their own insurance company each month/year to pay you the difference between your damages and what the negligent driver’s insurance coverage was. In other words, if you got in a car crash and your damages came to $100,000, and the other driver just had the bare minimum required by law ($50,000), then your underinsured coverage would cover the balance of $50,000. Of course, your insurance company will want to go after the negligent driver personally if they had assets to go after. But that would be your insurance company’s problem, not yours, because that is what you have been paying them for all these years: for situations where another driver’s insurance coverage isn’t enough to cover all of your damages.