It can be tempting to pay for a car accident out of pocket instead of filing an insurance claim. After all, paying for a small scratch yourself might cost a lot less than having your premium increased by your insurance agency.

But might is the important word. 

Even when you’re in a small accident like a fender bender, paying out of pocket can have serious consequences. Here are a few I’ve seen:

  • A small scratch is more expensive to repair than you expect because of the make of car, availability of supplies, or need for a rental vehicle while the owner waits for the work to be completed.
  • Without some sort of contract, the owner can come back and claim more damage than you originally agreed to pay for.
  • You or the owner might notice injuries later on that weren’t there at the beginning. This actually happens more than you’d realize – injuries like whiplash often don’t show up right away. 

For some people, these risks might still be worth it. But there are three things you’ll want to make sure you do to protect yourself:

  1. Have the owner get 3 estimates, or hire an automobile appraiser. They can get the work done wherever they want, but you only owe the lowest estimate. 
  2. Get a settlement before the car goes in for repairs. You don’t want any surprises. 
  3. Sign a release with the owner, which is a legally-binding document that frees you and your estate from paying for anything further related to the accident, including damage to the car, physical injury, and any other damages.

In general, it’s really best to consult a lawyer in these situations, even if it’s just to get help drafting the settlement and release. 

As a Memphis personal injury lawyer, I help people who’ve been injured in car accidents. If you or someone you know needs a lawyer to help with your car accident case, please contact me today at 901-327-1212. We’re happy to answer your questions free of charge.