What do I do if my car got rear ended? (3 Vital Tips)

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Here's what you need to know...
  • If you are rear-ended you should make a report with the insurance company even if it seems minor because you don’t know what problems will show themselves down the road
  • It’s a good idea to file a police report as well because things could be worse than they appear at first
  • If the other driver leaves the scene, write down important information and give it to the police


If you are rear-ended in a car accident, it is important that you exchange car insurance information with the person who rear-ended you even if you don’t notice any immediate damage to your vehicle.

Don’t allow the other person in the accident to convince you that you don’t need to file a report with the insurance company, even if they offer to pay cash for your damage.

The reason you must exchange car insurance information is that there is always the possibility that you could have an injury that doesn’t present itself right away.

In addition, there may be more damage to your vehicle than is immediately noticeable and you don’t want to have to foot the bill for that.

If you don’t get the other driver’s information, there is always the possibility that if you have an accident in the future, the adjuster will notice that you have prior damage to your car.

If this is the case, the insurance company can refuse to pay for damage that occurred in a previous accident.

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#1 – When in Doubt, Call the Police

The laws vary in each state, but in most cases, there are allowances for not calling the police. The general rule is that you don’t have to call the police if there are no injuries and there appears to be no damage over the specified amount of money.

The table below shows the damage cost threshold and the deadline for filing a police report in each state.

StateDamage ThresholdDeadline
Alabama$500 (from uninsured motorist)30 days
Alaska$2,00010 days
Arizona$300N/A
Arkansas$100030 days
California$100010 days
ColoradoAny damage10 days
Connecticut$10005 days
Delaware$500Immediately
Florida$500As soon as possible
Georgia$500Immediately
Hawaii$3000Immediately
Idaho$1500Immediately
Illinois$1500 ($500 when involving an uninsured motorist)10 days
Indiana$750Immediately
Iowa$15003 days
Kansas$1500Immediately
Kentucky$50010 days
Louisiana$5001 day
Maine$1000Immediately
MarylandN/A15 days
Massachusetts$10005 days
Michigan$1000Immediately
Minnesota$100010 days
Mississippi$50010 days
Missouri$5005 days
Montana$1000Immediately
Nebraska$100010 days
NevadaAll crashesImmediately
New Hampshire$100015 days
New Jersey$500Immediately
New Mexico$500Immediately
New York$100010 days
North Carolina$1000Immediately
North Dakota$1000 (except crashes with undomesticated animals are not required to be reported)Immediately
OhioAll crashesImmediately
Oklahoma$5006 months
Oregon$150072 hours
PennsylvaniaWhen vehicle is disabled5 days
Rhode Island$100021 days
South Carolina$100015 days
South Dakota$1000 for one party or $2000 total per accidentImmediately
Tennessee$50Immediately (property damage in excess of $400 must be reported in writing within 20 days)
Texas$1000Reported in writing within 10 days
Utah$100010 days
Vermont$30003 days
Virginia$1000N/A
Washington$7004 days
West Virgina$1000Immediately
Wisconsin$1000 ($200 for government property)1 day
Wyoming$1000Immediately

The problem is there is no guarantee that the damage that has occurred won’t be higher than what you imagine. Cars cost a lot of money to fix. A bumper replacement can easily cost over $1000, so if in doubt, make a police report.

You might think that a damaged bumper and scratched paint is a $300 problem when, in truth, it could very well be a $1200 problem depending on the type of car and the availability of parts and paint.

And even if you have 10 days or more to legally file a report, you’re better off calling the police right away.

What’s more, your insurance company always wants you to call the police after an accident. This helps to corroborate that the accident was not your fault and also provides an additional witness at the scene.

If the cost of the damage is higher than initially thought, not having a police report could slow down the claims process, as the adjuster will need to investigate and ensure that no further damage occurred after the accident.

What’s more, the adjuster could determine that you aren’t eligible for a payout at all.

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#2 – Eyewitness Statements Aren’t Crucial

The truth is that in most cases a car being rear-ended is a cut-and-dry case for the police. Your car is hit in the back, so there is no denying what has happened.

Even if the other driver claims that you stopped short and caused the accident, you will be found not at fault.

The reason for this is that every state actually has laws about how close you should be to another vehicle while driving. This space varies from one car length to three car lengths.

This following distance provides the opportunity for a driver to stop should the driver in front of them stop short for some reason.

Now, if there are witnesses at the scene, it may be important to show you stopped quickly because there was an obstacle or a danger present.

Overall, however, the police don’t require this information and neither does the insurance company, especially when the other driver is found to be at fault.

#3 – Write Down as Much Information as Possible if the other Driver Leaves the Scene

If the at-fault driver doesn’t want to provide their insurance information and insists on paying outright for the accident, then you must call the police and let them handle it for you.

While it isn’t illegal to simply accept payment for an accident, once you do this, you have no recourse if there are other problems in the future.

If you do call the police for a minor accident, you can expect that there is going to be a wait time, especially if the accident occurs during high traffic times where many accidents occur.

If the other driver leaves the scene, simply write down the following:

  • their license plate number
  • the make and model of the car
  • any descriptive information that you can remember

Provide the above information to the police.

If the other driver leaves and the police cannot find them based on the information that you have provided, then your insurance company may pay for the damages to your vehicle if you carry the right kind of insurance.

In this case, collision coverage would be necessary to pay for damages to your car.

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