Did I do something illegal? (or even immoral?) (Stupid? For sure.)

Was involved in a car accident today, something minor: Was driving about 20 to 25mph, when the other party driving in other direction abruptly made a left turn and I hit him on his side bending one of his front wheels. I braked hard but it was slippery out and my tires lost traction with road and just slipped right into the other party. So, he’s got a bent wheel and there doesn’t APPEAR to be any damage to my car. No air bags were deployed. I’m driving a 2007 Toyota Corolla and he’s driving a 2012 Toyota Camry SE.

So, I called 911 figuring that was the proper procedure. I gave the operator my name and phone number and the make and model of my car. The other party approached me and admitted fault and offered 200 dollars in cash which I accepted. I backed up and drove away. I don’t know what he did with his car since one of his front wheel has been pushed in.

Later, I discover that there was more damage to the car than meets the eye. The headlamp assembly was pushed in and the securing brackets were broken. The front bumper was mis-aligned and I tried to re-adjust it as much as I could. I’ll have to replace the headlamp assembly, for sure.

I don’t mind that I’ll have to do a little bit of work to get it back in order and the 200 he gave me will be just enough to cover only the parts.

However, I am worried that I called 911 and there was probably a police office who arrived at the scene after I had left. Did the police officer talk to the other guy after I had left? I also gave the 911 operator my information.

SO, the question is: did I handle this poorly? Nevermind that the cash I received won’t entirely cover the damage, but did I have legal obligations? Did I leave the scene of an accident?

This happened in NYC.

I know that this will not help you after the fact, but…
Why would you call 9-1-1 (which is essentially only for emergencies), and then leave the scene prior to the arrival of the police?

Did you handle it poorly?

Was it illegal?
Probably not, but, I am not allowed to give legal advice…

Did you leave the scene of an accident?
That charge is normally used when somebody leaves an accident scene where somebody is injured and/or there is major property damage and/or the identity of the driver is not known. Some of that applies in this case, and some of it does not. Truthfully, the NYPD has so many challenges facing it that I doubt if they would expend any energy tracking you down.

I am just wondering if you and the other driver exchanged information prior to leaving the scene.
If not, (coupled with the fact that he offered you cash on the spot) then it is very possible that he was (pick one or more)…intoxicated/unlicensed/uninsured/driving a stolen car…and he offered the cash in the hope that you wouldn’t call the police.

I may not be remembering this correctly, but I think New York law requires a police report if there are injuries or if there’s damage over some amount around $1,000, which was probably exceeded here.

The next time something like this happens, take pictures before moving the cars (if possible), call the police, call your insurance company, and get the other driver’s identification information. Don’t accept any money and don’t admit any fault at that point.

I’ve been driving for almost 10 years now but this is my first time being involved in an accident, I thought calling 911 was the right procedure in ALL cases, I am learning that this is incorrect.

My real concern is that since I had already called 911 and left before the officer arrived, could I possibly be charged with a misdemeanor or an arrest warrant issued against me?

Technically, possibly yes, but, as I stated previously, the NYPD has so many challenges daily that I can’t imagine that they would expend any efforts to track you down.

I don’t know about the 911 issue. I expect people call 911 all the time in situations like this, even though they probably aren’t supposed to. Just my opinion, but I doubt you’ll get any grief for doing that. If the police were to go after everybody that calls 911 in a non-emergency situation, that’s all they’d be doing.

Other than calling 911 though, I think you probably did what was best to serve your interests. You got enough $$ for the parts to fix your car, and you save yourself a lot of time and aggravation dealing with police reports and insurance companies and not to mention paperwork.

One more thing: Program the telephone number of your local police dispatch into your cell phone. Even if you get in an accident elsewhere, you can phone that number, and they can tell you the phone number to dial for that area. Best of luck.

If you don’t file an accident report with the police and the other party does not file an accident report, then there was no accident…But if the other guy hung around until the police showed up and they filled out an accident report, you having left the scene, in today’s lawyered up world, who knows what could happen…But it’s going to happen anyway, no matter what you do now, so why go looking for trouble? If there is going to be trouble, it will happen or it won’t…

My friends Great uncle used to get really drunk on Budwieser and wild turkey and call the white house and try to talk to President Carter and they never put a warrant out for him so I think your ok as far as that goes.

The other driver had something to hide. Thats all it boils down too.

Your fine, live and learn. If anything was coming down the pipeline you would know about it by now. They have you phone number.

If something did come up, which it wont, but if it did, just say the other driver threatened you not to talk to the police and you were afraid so you left. That simple. Your the victim here.

It’s out of your hands now. When you can’t control something, worrying about it will just make you irritable. Just try not to think ago it it and move on. I know that’s easy for me to say, but that is what you should do.

If this ever happens again and no one is hurt, get the other drivers license plate number, drivers license number, address, and phone number. Exchange insurance info. Make sure you give the other party your info too. Then call your insurer and report the accident.

When my mom’s car got rearended last year, a pedestrian witness called 911, because my mom had 2 small kids in the car, and they were screaming

The police showed up 5 hours later . . . long after everyone and and all cars involved were gone

For future reference, if they jump out of the car with $200 in cash, it means they’ve done this before and don’t want their insurance company to know they’ve done it again. But they should have thought of that before they drove like a moron again. Never accept cash at the scene - if he gets a decent lawyer to talk to your ins. co, they can make a case that your acceptance of the cash was your settlement of the issue, and therefore they owe you nothing further.

Yes, you handled this poorly. Next time, first take down his license plate (in case he decides to run away), then call the cops, then wait for them to get there and get a police report.

It was a mistake for sure. It leaves the door open for legal wrangling later.
You’re on 911 record as being there, the other driver may have decided after you left that it was indeed your fault, and likely no proof that 200 in cash changed hands. Hopefully this won’t escalate.

In Minnesota and I suspect most states, police reports are not required for minor damage such as under $1000. The police have enough to do without dealing with fender benders. For the additional damage, if you didn’t exchange information, you are probably out of luck. Whether accepting the $200 ended the claim or not depended on what he said and what you said.

In my experience, it is always a mistake to not get a police report. I don’t care if the damage looks superficial. If there is a collision, I want a police report for my insurance company. The police report protects you if the other party decides to lie about how events transpired, and if the other guy is drunk, I want everyone to know it.

I don't know about the 911 issue. I expect people call 911 all the time in situations like this, even though they probably aren't supposed to.

You should ALWAYS call the police. You get in an accident involving more then one vehicle then the police should be called. As the OP said…there was a lot more then $200 worth of damage.

I was in a similar situation some 20 years ago. Guy pulled out in front of me and I hit him on the side of his vehicle…No noticeable damage to my truck…but he had front fender damage. We were right next to a pay phone so I went over to call the police. He said there was no need since there was no damage to my NEW truck and he wasn’t going to get his fixed. I told him…I’m still calling the police. He left (turns out he didn’t have insurance). The police came and filled out a report and put out an arrest warrant for the other guy for leaving the scene of an accident. Later then I got home I did have some damage that I didn’t notice at the scene.


Count me amount the rest. You left the scene of an accident and accepted money from someone who probably was trying to buy you off. There is more then meets the eye as the other party had something to hide and you bought into it. If you had his license and registration info you could go to the police and file a report but…lets face it. You theoretically have committed an offense and your only recourse is to own up to it…or go into hiding ( just kidding) ; but you get my point. Sounds like you gave him info, he gave you nothing…extremely poor judgement all the way around. Always notify the police when involved in an accident. Let them decide the severity and what is to be done next.

Just the idea you found more damage then initially thought says you should let the experts in this matter handle things. Thankfully no one was hurt. It could have been a much worse then it was. Thankfully too, the other car wasn’t driven by a criminal type. You just don’t know for sure. The police are your friend in these matters, not someone to be avoided. You need protection from those who would take advantage of you, like the other party in the accident. But, just the fact you accepted a bribe, tells you that your moral preparedness in emergency decision making must be readjusted too.

Huh. Paying for what you consider a fair price for damages is not a BRIBE. May not be smart or necessary but it is not a bribe. You really should say nothing and just exchange information but lets not get silly. For small fender benders, the police are simply going to make sure you exchange insurance information. They are not going to fill out an accident report and diagram the scene. Plus, the police report has little basis for the two insurance companies settling the claim.

Always amazed me in heavy traffic where someone bumps into someone else and the car sits in the middle of the road waiting for the police to come, slowing traffic and causing an even greater hazard. Car disabled, injuries, major damage, yes of course, but bumper scraping? Get real.


With all due respect, the advice to “say nothing and just exchange information” without calling the police is dangerous. In addition to creating a written record of what happened, the police in my state will cite the person responsible for the accident if fault is clear, even if the damage is minimal. That police report can come in handy if the other party tries to unfairly place the blame on you. If you can, you should always move both vehicles out of traffic, even if you intend to call the police and have them file a report. Blocking traffic until the police arrive is often unnecessary.

I once witnessed a collision where one party ran a red light. The party at fault tried to claim, after the fact, that the light was green. Fortunately, the victim had me as a witness. If nobody had called the police to file a report, it would have been one person’s word against another, with no witness account.

Another time, when someone pulled out in front of me and our cars collided, we pulled our vehicles into the nearest parking lot. I immediately secured a witness and called the police. After the police arrived, the other driver tried to claim I was speeding. Thankfully, the witness told the officer what happened, including the fact that I wasn’t speeding. If I hadn’t called the police, it would have been my word against his.

Check with your insurance company. My insurance company’s guidelines say to always get a police report, even if the damage appears minimal or superficial. Protect yourself. Protect your low insurance premiums. Always get a written police report.

One last advantage to calling the police is that they can confirm the other guy’s insurance information isn’t fraudulent. If you don’t have collision coverage, you think the other guy is clearly at fault, and you’re going to call the other guy’s insurance company to file a claim, you’d be crazy not to get a police report. For one thing, it would be your word against the other guy’s word. For another thing, you might find the insurance company has never heard of the guy.

@Bing " Paying for what you consider a fair price for damages is not a BRIBE"

. Paying someone (OP) with the intent of NOT reporting an accident when obviously the damage to your own car was significant (the Camry) constitutes bribery any way you cut it. Just saying the money covers damage to someone else car when neither is an experienced body person is IMO, buying someone off to keep them from reporting it to authorities. The intent was NOT to pay for damages, the intent was NOT to report the damage. I call it bribery.

Bribery is an act of giving money or gift giving that alters the behavior of the recipient.

Or officially, 1. Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person’s views or conduct.
2. Something serving to influence or persuade.

Do you think that if OP were not offered two hundred dollars, they would have been more likely to rightfully report the accident ? I think so.

@Whitey With all due respect, the advice to “say nothing and just exchange information” without calling the police is dangerous.

I wholeheartedly agree.

The police do not always have to be called to the scene of an accident. However, they should be called if someone has been killed or injured, or if a vehicle needs to be towed away.

Note that even if the police are not actually called to the scene of an accident, you may still be required to report it to a police station.

You still don’t know if other car, with the bent wheel, had to be towed. That was not OP’s decision. That should be the police. Injury is not always apparent at the scene either…again, not your decision and why it should at least be reported later with all appropriate information .

Sorry but you are not required to report an accident and file an accident report with losses under $1000, and no injuries. Extensive loss yes, injury, yes, but all you are doing is wasting the time of the police who have better things to do than inspect a bent wheel and scratched bumper. For these minor issues all they do is make sure the information is exchanged between the drivers.

A tip to the barber will influence them but I hardly think that’s a bribe. Also, a stranger that runs into you is hardly a person in the position of trust.

Now today a girl was hit by a cement truck. Bumper off, fender smashed, door jammed, but no apparent injury. The police were called which was proper, but a bent wheel?