How to settle an accident without insurance

If you are ever in a fender-bender and are considering not filing an insurance claim, here are some important things to do when settling a car accident without insurance.

  1. Document the accident and all agreements made. Take pictures of both vehicles and the scene where the accident occurred. Make no verbal agreements. Draft a car accident settlement agreement form that all parties sign. Get everything in writing and make copies for everyone.
  2. Record the details of the other vehicle and its driver. Document the other vehicle's license number, make, model and color. Write down the full name and contact information of the other driver and their insurance information.
  3. Get a police report. Even if your state doesn't require a police report, it is wise to get one. This report will be an official documentation of the vehicles and people involved, any injuries, damage and what reportedly happened to cause the wreck.
  4. Get multiple quotes for vehicle repairs: Getting multiple quotes for garages/body shops for repairs to damaged vehicles will help to ensure you're getting the best deal.

Should you settle a car accident without insurance?

There are always risks to consider when you decide not to contact your insurance company after an accident. However, there are times when it makes sense. If it's a one-car accident (you backed into a pole, for example) and no other driver is involved, it's usually safe to simply repair it yourself.

If another driver is involved, it can become more complicated, but there may still be times when it's ok to settle without insurance.

If you've been involved in a minor accident with another car, you'll both need to be on the same page before you proceed. If the other person wants to get his or her insurer involved, it's highly likely that yours will be notified at some point in the process – if that's the case, you should contact your insurance company right away.

According to Brian Rauber with the Rauber Insurance Agency in Gladstone, Missouri, reporting an accident to your insurer is not a legal requirement. "Policyholders are not legally required to report all accidents to their insurer. It is common for drivers involved in minor accidents to work out a settlement between themselves," he says.

However, if the other driver does report it, you probably won't have a choice.

What to do in a minor car accident with no damage

If you have been in a minor car accident and there is no damage, you may be able to reach an agreement with the other driver to avoid a claim and not do anything at all. If nothing needs to be repaired, there's nothing to file a claim over.

However, sometimes damage shows up later, so it's important to exchange contact and insurance information in case you do need to make repairs.

When should you not file an auto insurance claim?

While there are many reasons not to involve your insurer with a fender-bender, many drivers skip filing a claim to avoid a premium increase. Before making that call, consider the cost of repairs vs. the potential increase.

What will one claim do to your premium? The rate increase will vary by insurer and state.

Drivers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and California get hit with the biggest increases for one at-fault accident, while those in Rhode Island, Wyoming, New York and South Dakota, compared to the rest of the country, based on a rate analysis by

How much more you pay for coverage after an accident depends on your insurance company’s guidelines and your state laws. Many other factors also come into play, chief among them are the type of car you drive, your age, where you live and your credit history. Having said that, below you’ll see statistics for the national average increases for common accidents for a full coverage policy.

How an accident affects car insurance rates

Accident claimAverage rateAverage rate after claimDollar increasePercentage increase
1 At-fault property damage accident under $2K$1,430$1,796$36626%
1 At-fault property damage accident over $2K$1,430$1,880$45032%
At-fault bodily injury accident$1,430$1,889$45932%
2 At-fault property damage accident over $2k$1,430$3,002$1,572110%

Some insurance companies might not raise your rates at all, but most will.

Multiple claims in a short period of time are a big red flag to insurers. "Multiple claims on your record will indicate to an insurer that you are not prudent or are simply inept behind the wheel. This can lead to a big rate increase or, more likely, non-renewal," says Kristofer Kirchen, senior agent at Barrett Harding Insurance, Inc.

Even an inquiry can impact your rates.

A claim inquiry or even just a call to your agent or insurance company regarding an accident may end up on your claim history -- even if you don't end up making a claim in the end. If your claim record shows one accident but three inquiries related to an accident or claim in the last three years, insurance companies may consider you a risky driver -- which could result in a rate increase or cancellation.

In almost all cases, the rate increase is going to stay in effect for at least three years.

How to get your car fixed after an accident without insurance

If you were at fault, all you'll need to do is pick a repair shop and bring your car in to get the work done. You'll pay for the damages yourself and be done with it.

If another driver has done the damage and promises to pay for your repairs, things can get more complicated. 

“Sadly, most Americans don’t have personal savings to cover an unexpected major expense,” says Justin Wolfe, owner of Wolfe Law Group in Atlanta. “If you make a handshake deal to resolve any vehicle damage or pay for doctor bills, you should know that the person who you are dealing with may be penniless. There is no way to know a person’s financial state of affairs at the scene of a car crash,” Wolfe says.

If you get the sense that the person you were involved in an accident with may struggle to pay for your minor damages, then you may want to get this resolved and file a claim with your insurer.

No matter what agreement you make with the other driver, ensure you have their contact and insurance information in case they back out.

The benefits and risks of settling an accident without car insurance

Here are some of the potential benefits and risks to consider when deciding whether or not to file a claim for a recent car accident:


  • No increase in insurance premium
  • No claim's process
  • No restrictions on repair shops


  • If the other driver is at fault, you risk not getting your damages covered
  • If you are at fault and the other driver later sues for damages like medical bills, repairs or pain and suffering

How to avoid the risks of settling without insurance

What should you do next once you've agreed to settle up privately? Document everything.

"Document, document, document," says Kirchen. "The proof is in the documentation. If something goes awry, you still have some means of recourse. Ultimately, in court, the person who has the proof will win if the other party only has hearsay."

Snap photos of both vehicles before you move them as well as close-ups of the damage on both cars.

You may want to forgo the photos if you are at fault. Thomas Simeone with Simeone & Miller in Washington, D.C., says, "Take photos of the vehicles and the accident scene if they will help you. If they will not, do not create evidence that can be used against you."

You also may want to call the police. A police report is the ultimate documentation if you end up in court. In most cases, the police will determine fault based on their research of the accident scene. At the very least, the police should provide you with a Driver Exchange of Information form.

If there was no serious damage, and if nobody was hurt, the police likely won't come. It depends on the police department’s policy and how busy they are that day. That can also be a sign that you can handle the accident without involving insurers.

If the police do come, don’t worry that they might notify your insurer. "There is not much likelihood that your insurer would learn of the accident. Police reports are only distributed to insurance companies by request," says Rauber.

Again, Simeone looks at the other side of the equation. "If you were at fault, do not attempt to obtain a police report -- it will only provide documentation against you."

Your state may require an accident report for accidents above a certain threshold.

Kirchen suggests getting the at-fault driver to sign an agreement admitting liability and promising to pay.

No matter what, be sure to have the following information before you leave the scene:

  • Name, address and phone number of the other driver
  • Driver's license number - consider snapping a photo with your phone
  • Name, phone number and policy number of the other driver's car insurer, just in case

Repairing your car

Coming to an agreement at the accident scene is only half the battle.

Expect some back and forth before you come to a final resolution. Setting a deadline is important; the longer it drags on, the more complicated a claim will become if you have to go to the other driver's insurer. If an agreement cannot be reached, or you lose confidence in the other person's ability to cover the damages, immediately file a claim with the driver's insurance company.

To begin, Kirchen recommends getting three estimates. "It is very possible the estimates will come back higher than either party expected. Unseen damage can often be expensive," he warns.

If the estimate is too high, it's time to involve the insurance companies.

The range of acceptable agreements is wide and will be unique to your particular situation and accident, but the innocent party can reasonably expect a rental car for extended repairs, use of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, and the right to choose the repair shop.

Putting a car accident behind you

When the car is ready to get back on the road, there should be some final paperwork, especially if you are at fault. The at-fault party will want to ensure that the repairs end the incident.

Kirchen recommends getting the other party to sign a release of claims.

"This ensures that the other party cannot come back to you saying they want to be paid for diminution of value or that they suddenly have injuries," he advises.

Simeone, once more, looks at the other side of the coin. "If you are the one injured and receiving money, try to avoid signing a release so that you have the right to seek more money at a later date, if necessary."

Still, if you are injured, you probably should call your insurer/ There is a reason we pay for insurance, after all. It alleviates our financial suffering in case of a wreck, and even fender benders can be pretty costly.

There are times you want to look into how to get your car fixed after an accident without insurance. There are also certain occasions when your insurer should take the wheel and steer you through the headaches of getting a car repaired.

Auto insurance FAQs

Should I pay for an accident out of pocket or let insurance pay?

If the accident is a minor fender-bender with damage less than or equal to your car insurance deductible, paying for the repairs out-of-pocket instead of filing a claim makes sense. If there are any injuries, you should file a claim.

Does insurance go up if you pay out-of-pocket?

In general, no. However, if something appears on your driving record related to the accident, it could affect your rates.

Is it legal to settle car accidents privately?

Yes, it is. There are no laws that require you to notify your insurance company after an accident. However, there is a good chance that your car insurance policy does require that you report any accident and if you fail to do so your insurance company can deny any claims that result from it.

When should you avoid trying to arrange a private settlement?

If it is a major accident and your car is totaled, you should report it to your insurer.

In most states, you are legally required to report an accident if there are any injuries at all.

Is there ever a time when premiums won’t go up after a claim?

In most cases, your premium increases after you file a claim. The increase will vary depending on the severity of the claim and how much the insurance company ends up paying out on the claim.

The one way to avoid a rate increase after a claim is to carry accident forgiveness on your policy. Most major insurance companies offer this add-on, which ensures that your premium will not go up after your first at-fault accident. However, it does have limitations.