If you’re in a wreck, you just assume that you need to call the police and report the accident – so why would the other driver offer you cash to settle the issue on the spot and avoid that call? Isn’t that illegal?
It’s a surprisingly common occurrence for well-heeled drivers to try to offer a bit of cash in exchange for walking away from a wreck they caused without revealing their contact and insurance information. They’re banking on the fact that you may be a little dazed and too concerned about the damage to your car to think clearly, causing you to accept the offer.
What’s in it for the at-fault driver?
Generally speaking, the at-fault driver is doing their best to limit their liability and losses. Most likely, the other driver doesn’t want the accident report on their record because they know that will increase their insurance premiums (particularly if they already have a spotty driving history.)
They could be trying to avoid the police altogether – and this might be the case if they caused the wreck because they’ve been drinking or were being particularly reckless. They may be worried about potential criminal charges.
They could also be aiming to limit their financial liability. While it’s not illegal to offer cash to settle a debt – even those arising from a car wreck – the amount you get from their offer could be thousands less than what you’re rightfully due.
Why is it a bad idea to accept the offer?
Technically, Missouri law only requires you to call the police when an accident involves an uninsured motorist and someone is injured or the property damage is more than $500. You could accept their offer without violating the law – but you shouldn’t.
Right after the wreck, adrenaline can mask pain and other injury symptoms, so you might not be able to tell that you’re even injured until after the other driver has pressed some cash into your hands and disappeared. You also aren’t exactly in the best position to tell if your vehicle has more than a few scratches. A bent frame or broken chassis could be hiding beneath the surface damage.
If you’re involved in a wreck, protect your future interests – and don’t let anybody talk you into a rash action that puts you at a disadvantage.