When you are involved in an auto accident, you should first check to see if anyone is injured. If someone is injured, immediately call 911. While you are waiting for emergency responders, provide any medical assistance you can to the injured person. If no one is injured, then proceed to assess any damage to the vehicle(s).
If it is only a minor fender-bender that results in no injuries and no damage or merely a tiny dent, it is not necessary to get a police report. However, you should always exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s), passenger(s), pedestrian or cyclist involved.
Contacting the Police After an Accident
If one of the vehicles has sustained a large dent or more severe damage, you should call 911 and ask for an officer to respond to the accident. The officer will evaluate the scene of the accident. He or she will search for clues to identify who is at fault and to what degree. The officer will check the damage on the automobiles, talk to any witnesses, and determine if any traffic laws were broken.
The police will also ask questions of you and the other person/people involved. Be truthful and cooperative. But also be very careful what you say to the officer and to the other driver. Only discuss the facts, not your opinion or theories. Do not admit that you were at fault or partially at fault. Such a statement could be used against you in an insurance claim and a legal case. You may not be fully aware of the facts that contributed to the accident. Some of us are socially conditioned to take more blame on ourselves than we should because it seems like the nice and right thing to do. It is not the wise thing to do in the event of an auto accident.
You should also get the police officer’s name and badge number, the police report number, and a copy of the police report.
Why You Should Get a Police Report
There are several reasons you should obtain a police report. You and the other driver will almost certainly be making an insurance claim, and your case will be significantly improved if you have a police report. Also, it often happens that even though the vehicle damage is slight, the other driver will later claim severe injuries and damage. A police report can prove invaluable in such disputes, as insurance companies consider police officers trustworthy and impartial. And in the unlikely event that the case goes to court, a police report could end up being a deciding factor in the outcome of the case.
What If There Is Vehicle Damage But I Don’t Feel Injured?
If there is more than slight damage but you don’t feel you’re really injured, you should still seek medical care. It is highly possible that due to shock and adrenaline, you cannot yet feel your injuries. Often people do not realize they have whiplash, for example, until the day after the accident. If you later realize you have been injured but did not seek medical attention following the accident, you may not be able to claim those injuries in an insurance claim.
What if the Police Aren’t Available?
When you call 911 and ask for an officer to respond, the 911 respondent will inform you if there are officers available to come to the scene. They will also walk you through the steps you should take after the accident. The police usually have no problem showing up at the scene. However, sometimes there are numerous other incidents police are responding to, and no officer is available. The emergency respondent at 911 will inform you what to do in that case as well.
If you have not already done so, move the vehicles to prevent them from impeding traffic, if possible. Exchange information with the other driver. Get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, email, insurance information, license plate number, and the make and model of their vehicle. Also get the contact information of any passengers. It’s possible that injured passengers may later make an insurance claim.
Take photographs of the vehicle damage, the road conditions, and anything else that may have contributed to or been damaged during the incident. Seek out witnesses and get their contact information as well.
For more details on what to do after an accident, consult our detailed article here.
If you will be making an insurance claim, it is wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer will help you understand your legal rights and options, will handle all communication with the insurance companies and the other driver’s attorney, will launch an independent investigation, and much more.
The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team offers free consultations to people involved in automobile accidents. We don’t get paid until you get paid.