Best Practices for Reporting a Car Accident

Best Practices for Reporting a Car Accident

Being in a car accident can be stressful and unexpected which means that it can be that much harder to gather your wits together after one and report the accident, as a car accident lawyer knows all too well. Obviously, a major accident will result in the police showing up and preparing a police report about the accident.  Here’s what you need to know about contacting the police regardless of the type of accident you have.

Is it always necessary to contact the police about an accident? The short answer is yes.  Some states require that the police be contacted whenever there is an accident.  Even if there is no state requirement to contact the police, calling the police and letting them decide whether to come fulfills your obligation in terms of at least notifying the police that an accident occurred. That being said, some accidents are just so minor that it would be a waste of everyone’s time to call the police, especially if the damage is very minor and there are no injuries.

When is a police report of the accident required? Again, this depends on the state in which the accident occurred which in turn sets various limits of injury and property damage before they require a report to be filed. For example, if no one has more than $1,000 in damage, some states may not require a police report to be filed. Other states’ thresholds are higher or lower, so it really depends.

The thing is it’s still a really good idea to get a police report of the accident because even if the state does not require that a report be filed, you never know what may happen later on.  There are some injuries that are legitimately not evident at the time of the accident or in the immediate aftermath. Having an accident report completed by the police can be really helpful when those aches start appearing later on because it can either support or disclaim the newly found injuries.

Police reports are very valuable in litigation, especially if your minor fender bender is now being characterized by the other driver as a full-on t-boning complete with whiplash and vague back problems. A detailed police report can stop this money grab in its tracks and be an insurance policy itself.  

Speaking of insurance companies, many of them will require that you have some sort of police report to corroborate the damages you are asking the insurance company to pay to fix.  So, the moral of this story is, get a police report.

What happens if the police don’t come out? Remember this mostly depends upon the nature of the accident – a fender-bender versus a double head-on collision – and the injuries and damages that have occurred. It is always a good idea to call the police, however, and report the accident and let them make the determination of whether they are going to come out.  If they do not decide to come out, document that as well as the damage and the information from the other driver.  Find witnesses, since their independent third party information can be valuable if there is later litigation. Get photographs and video of the scene and the damage. Then, take all of this to the police and file a report as soon as possible.  

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