Most people know that the first thing you should do after a crash is report the car accident to the police. However, what are you supposed to do if the police don’t show up? You may have to take extra steps after your collision.
You want to protect yourself after an accident, especially when filing an insurance claim and speaking with a lawyer. If the police don’t arrive to document what actually happened, it could put your claim in jeopardy. Read on for some essential tips that will help you protect yourself.
Should I Call the Police After a Traffic Accident?
The rules of the road vary by state. In some states, you may be legally required to call the police to report your accident. Even if you do not have to call the police after an accident, there are some situations where you still should, including:
- When vehicles are damaged
- If nearby property is damaged
- When someone is injured
- If fault is in question
Many states do not require drivers to call police after every car accident, as the majority of accidents are minor. Even if you call the police after an accident, they may not show up.
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Why Would Law Enforcement Ignore My Request to Come to the Scene?
There are several reasons police might not be able to come to the scene to complete an accident report. First and most importantly, they may be busy with more serious criminal matters. Although we like to think of law enforcement always being ready when we call, the truth is that sometimes even they have to prioritize.
If your traffic accident was minor, police may pass on the call if there is something more serious demanding their attention. Sometimes major weather events, like a hurricane, can also pull officers away from responding to auto accidents.
What Is a Police Report?
A police report is an official account of what happened in a traffic accident. This report will typically include:
- Date, time, and location of the collision
- Driver and passenger names, addresses, and phone numbers
- The police officer’s name and badge number
- Witness statements
- Auto insurance information
- Citations or violations of the law
- Location and severity of damage to vehicles
- Road, weather, and visibility conditions
The report will also include a diagram or drawing of the accident. Sometimes law enforcement will include photographs of the accident scene.
Are Police Reports Public?
Like most legal matters, the answer is “it depends.” In most jurisdictions, anyone can request a specific police report, but they are not “public” the way other papers filed with a court usually are. Some jurisdictions allow you to request police reports online, but even in those states, the full reports are not published to the general public.
What Should I Do if I Know the Police Aren’t Coming to the Scene?
You don’t necessarily have to do anything differently if law enforcement doesn’t show up at the scene of your accident, but what you should usually do becomes much more important. Police reports often provide neutral accounts of what happened in the accident. If they do not arrive at the scene, it’s important that you take pictures and gather as much information as possible.
In addition to getting witness names and phone numbers, you might consider recording their statement about what happened in the accident or even your own. This will help show what happened immediately after the accident occurred.
You will also need to be vigilant about documenting the accident scene and getting information about everyone involved. If a driver admits he or she hit you, write down his or her phone number and try calling it immediately to make sure it is accurate. Sometimes, stories about who is at fault will change over time, and you want the evidence to reflect the truth of what happened.
Can I Report an Accident to Police After the Fact?
Yes! Even if law enforcement isn’t able to come to the scene and make a report, you can still go to your nearest police station and request a report. Some places even let you file a police report online. If you aren’t sure how to file a police report, just call your local non-emergency number and ask about your options.
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Do I Have to File a Police Report After a Car Accident?
Every jurisdiction handles car accident reporting differently, but in some states, you are legally required to make a report to law enforcement and/or the DMV if someone is injured or the damage exceeds a certain amount.
If you get into an accident while traveling, it’s a good idea to check the laws of the state where the crash occurred to make sure you comply with any laws that apply to your situation.
You should also report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Many people don’t realize that you can make a car insurance claim without a police report. You may have to work a little harder to prove the facts of your claim, but if you aren’t at fault, your insurance company will want to help you prove that.
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