Tips for Reporting an Accident to Police
When you’re involved in a minor car collision, a quick exchange of insurance information may seem like all that’s needed. You have car insurance to take care of just such an accident. Do you really need to call the police or make an accident report?
It may surprise you that the answer to this question is always “yes.” No matter how minor the damage, reporting an accident to the police can save you money and hassle later on. And in many states, the law requires you to a report car accident to the police. You can still choose not to contact your insurance company, even if you make a police report. Here are some tips for reporting an accident to police.
Call the Police Immediately
The first step after any traffic accident is to call 9-1-1. Even if there are no injuries or property damage that you are aware of, you’ll want an officer to come and take a report. When the police show up, they’ll conduct a brief investigation and try to figure out who caused the accident.
The police will likely collect the following:
- Date and time the accident occurred -- noting if it was dark or if there were other visibility issues
- Personal information from all the parties involved, including name, address, telephone number and insurance details
- Driver statements
- Information on the vehicles involved in the accident and damage
- Witness contact information and their statements
- Injuries noted at the scene
- Description of the road or parking lot where the accident occurred
- A diagram of the accident scene
In most states, you’re not required to talk to the police, but it may be in your best interests to have your side of the story in the report. Just stick to the facts when speaking with the officer and do not accidently admit fault. Before the police leave the scene, obtain the name and badge numbers of the responding officers. This way, you can follow-up with the officer if you remember additional information.
Filing a Police Report After an Accident
If officers don’t come to the scene, file your own police report as soon as possible. It is not unusual for the at-fault party to accept responsibility right after the accident, only to change their story later.
This list of additional measures will help if you file a police report:
- Collect the information listed above.
- Take pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved in the incident.
- Use your phone to record any witness statements.
- If the other party wants to admit fault, ask for a signed statement or make a recording on your phone.
- Look for video surveillance cameras in parking lots or nearby businesses. Inquire about video footage immediately, since it’s unlikely to be stored very long.
In busy metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, the police may not take a car accident report unless there are injuries. If this happens, try filing an accident report with the DMV to have your statement and evidence recorded as soon after the accident as possible.
Review Your Police Report
During the investigation, the officer probably won’t give an opinion on fault. You will need to get a copy of your car accident report. It’s normally available within 10 days. Although the police report is not admissible in court, it’s frequently used by insurance companies in deciding liability. You should carefully review the report and if you discover mistakes, you can request the report be revised.
Have Questions About Reporting an Accident to the Police? Ask a Lawyer
Even a minor traffic collision can turn into an insurance nightmare. Perhaps the other party changed their story after the accident or their insurance company is disputing the claims. Contact an experienced car accident attorney near you to have someone on your side to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the settlement process.
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Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.