Oct 2013

Do I need to call the police after an accident?

Having the police respond to the scene of an automobile accident can be very helpful, even when it appears to be a minor collision. After an accident, you may not be thinking clearly enough to know exactly what information to obtain and how to respond. A police officer will know what to do and what information to document.

Police investigate accidents all the time; ordinary citizens are rarely involved in accidents. As a result, law enforcement brings a level of experience and impartiality to an accident investigation that the people in the accident lack. Starting with the basics, police document important contact and identifying information about everyone involved in collision. This includes the person or people who were hit, the person or people who caused the accident, the passengers of all the vehicles and the witnesses. Police document the names, addresses, phone numbers and drivers’ license numbers of all the drivers. They also record the insurance and owner of each vehicle. This is very important because sometimes the insurance that applies is under the name of the
owner (such as a business or parent) of the vehicle, not the driver.

Having police at the scene also helps establish the facts of the collision while the information is fresh in everyone’s minds. If a person admits to the police that he/she ran a red light and caused the accident, for instance, it makes it more difficult for him/her to claim he/she had the green light later on. If the police are not there to document such an admission and one person changes his/her story, then it will be the word of one person against the word of another.

Police also have the ability to investigate the accuracy of information in a way that most people cannot. For example, there once was a woman hit her from behind while she was stopped in traffic at a light. There was a male and a female in the vehicle that caused the collision. Police were called to the scene. Initially, the female occupant claimed she was driving at the time of the collision. During the investigation, however, the police interviewed witnesses and discovered that the male was actually driving and the female was just a passenger. Further investigation revealed that the male also had a suspended license. Had the police not been called to the accident scene, the victim would not have known the true identity of the driver or that the driver was driving illegally.

Not every police agency will respond to every accident. Some police departments, for instance, will not send an officer out if the damage to the vehicles is minor and no one needs emergency medical attention. Those departments will only take a report over the phone. Whether the agency will send out an officer or not, calling the police and documenting the accident in someway is always recommended, no matter how “minor” the accident may appear.