It’s not uncommon for drivers to try to handle the aftermath of a car accident without getting the authorities or court involved. Especially in cases where the accident caused minor damage, an at-fault driver may simply try to offer you cash to avoid the hassle of dealing with the cops. You may also want to avoid the hassle of filing a claim.
However, while initially enticing, accepting cash at the scene may have a negative impact down the road. No matter how much money you are offered, it is usually in your best interest to speak with an attorney first. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations and can offer you advice on what to do in this particular situation.
Generally, any money—whether from the at-fault driver or a quick settlement offer from their insurance—offered upfront is not as much as you could get if you were to file a claim and have an official report filed. You also never know what injuries or further damage could become apparent after you have already accepted their offer. For example, if you accept $1,500 right after the crash and soon thereafter you need additional medical treatment (i.e. surgery) then this could cause you to pay these medical expenses out of pocket.
No, it is not illegal for a driver to offer cash and for another driver to accept it. Maryland is an at-fault state, meaning that the driver responsible for causing the accident is legally obligated to compensate the victim(s) for any damages. Thus, if they offer you cash and you take it, this is considered an acceptable form of compensation. If they do not offer you cash up front, you would, of course, have to file a claim to pursue compensation through their insurance provider.
Though accepting cash at the scene is legal, it is not typically in your best interest. Accepting money from the at-fault driver right away may affect your chances of pursuing further compensation should you discover it is needed. Even minor accidents can result in injuries that don’t show up until a few days or even weeks later. The money you are offered at the scene likely won’t be enough to cover car repairs and almost certainly won’t cover a rental car, lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
When in doubt, always decline their offer and seek compensation through a personal injury claim or even a lawsuit if necessary. If the driver hassles you or gives you trouble, you should immediately call the authorities. The police should always be called anyways so an official report can be filed. If an issue arises later, it may be difficult to prove what happened without an official police report.
There are many reasons why someone may want to offer cash to another driver following an accident, such as:
- The at-fault driver may not want to file a claim with their insurance due to the hassle of dealing with it all or because they are worried it will raise their insurance premium.
- They may be worried about getting a citation and having their license revoked if this is not their first offense. Or they may simply worry about the accident going on their record.
- They may not have insurance at all and fear being caught driving without coverage.
- They may be in a hurry or do not feel like dealing with the lengthy process involved when a claim is filed.
- The at-fault driver could be driving without a valid license or have a warrant our for their arrest.
Cash offers always seem attractive at first but are typically not as much as you could get if you were to file an official claim. Even if the at-fault driver offers to initially pay for your injuries or damages once you receive your bill, there is still no way of knowing what could happen down the road.
- Car damage may be worse than you thought: Once you take your car in for repairs, you may find that the damage is more extensive and costs more than what the at-fault driver offered you. There may also be damage that isn’t initially apparent that may require you to take your car back in for repairs at a later time.
- Injuries may be worse than expected or may develop over time: Even if you feel fine at the scene, you may find that your neck or back starts bothering you later on. You could even develop complications from your injuries that affect your ability to work.
- You may develop mental trauma: Our bodies are often in shock right after an accident, limiting our ability to process what has happened. However, you may find that weeks, months, or even years later, you suffer from mental anguish related to the accident.
When you accept a cash offer from another driver, it could affectyour ability to go back and later file a claim to seek compensation for the above situations. However, when you file a claim, you can receive full compensation for damages such as:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Loss of wages
- Future loss wages
- Car repairs
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
If you have questions about a driver offering you cash, you should always speak to an attorney before agreeing to anything. A lawyer can help you determine if the offer is enough or if it would be in your best interest to file a personal injury claim.
At Zirkin and Schmerling Law, we understand the hesitation of filing a claim and can help guide you through the process to make it easier. You never know what might happen following an accident, and it is typically best to file a claim to receive the full amount of compensation you deserve.
Contact us or call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our personal injury attorneys today.