Maybe you were sideswiped by another driver who slid through a stop sign without looking, or maybe you got hit from behind by a driver who was tailgating you in heavy traffic. Whatever the reason, you suddenly find yourself standing at the side of the road inspecting what – admittedly – seems like nothing more than a little damage to your vehicle.
The other driver pulls out their wallet and offers you a few hundred dollars in cash – partially to cover the damage and partially to “forget about it” and not call the police. What do you do now?
This is actually a fairly common occurrence, and a lot of people – especially when their cars already have a little wear-and-tear on them from the road – are tempted to take the offer. Here’s why that’s a bad idea:
Adrenaline can mask the symptoms of an injury
An accident is scary – and fear raises your adrenaline levels automatically. Since adrenaline masks pain as a survival mechanism, you could be injured and not even realize it. Muscle strains in your back, slipped discs in your spine, whiplash that affects your neck and shoulders and even internal injuries are possible.
Surface damage on your vehicle may not be the only problem
That bent fender or the dent in your car door may seem like little more than a hassle, but vehicles are a lot like human bodies in that the real damage may be hidden. You could have structural damage to your vehicle’s frame, for example, that won’t make itself known right away.
If you take the driver’s offer, you leave yourself in a very vulnerable position. If you find out later that you’re actually quite injured or your vehicle is seriously damaged, you won’t be able to prove it was connected to the accident – and you won’t even have the other party’s contact information. Calling the police lets you create a record that you may need to rely on later.
Knowing what’s likely to happen to the other driver’s insurance rates can make you understandably sympathetic to their feelings – but you need to protect your own legal interests after a wreck.