At what point will I have to report a car accident to the police?
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UPDATED: Oct 13, 2021
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If you ever have a car accident, you first concern is usually whether everyone involved is okay. Then, all the questions begin to arise, such as at what point will you have to report the accident to the police. Simply put, the answer to this question is as soon as possible.
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It is the job of the responding police officer to make a report about the situation. The report will include the names and addresses of those involved, what occurred, and if known, who or what was to blame. It will also document other factors, such as inclement weather or road obstructions, which could have played a part in the accident.
Expect the Best But Prepare for the Worst
No one ever expects to be involved in a car accident. However, there are steps you can take to be prepared in case the unfortunate does occur.
Giving your car the attention it requires can seem like a never-ending struggle but it’s one that will serve you well in the long run.
The proper fluids, a clean engine, and new tires can mean the difference between getting to your destination safely and having an accident. More tips can be found from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
Cars can’t drive themselves (yet) so it is crucial that you are well-rested and paying close attention to everything in your path. Distracted driving has now become a leading cause of accidents. Many studies have been conducted about this dangerous habit, such as one by Car and Driver magazine.
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Consequences for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
A majority of states in this country consider it a crime to leave an accident scene. Depending on where you live, this can be regarded as a simple misdemeanor or even a major felony. The gravity of the charges may be related to how much destruction or injury was created as a result of the accident.
The Need for a Police Report
When you are involved in an accident where no one is hurt and there is no damage to either vehicle, you might be tempted to just drive away, thanking goodness that it wasn’t more serious. Nevertheless, it would still be wise to have a police report on file in case something goes wrong later. It is crucial to do so immediately, as things can change quickly, such as the rising sun or an icy patch that has since melted. This can all serve to damage the validity of any future claims.
People don’t always know when they are injured. You may think you are just fine, only to awaken the next day with a sore neck or back. Without a police report, it becomes a matter of he said/she said when the justice and legal systems try to sort out the truth.
Sadly, some people may distort facts if they know they are being sued. In addition, if you ever need to report the accident to your car insurance company, they will most likely ask for the official accident record. When they can rely on an accident report, the company can more easily expedite your case. It will also help to protect you should anyone try to make false statements during any resulting legal proceedings.
How You Benefit From Filing a Report
Another benefit of filing a report is that it requires a police officer to provide official witness to the immediate aftermath of the accident. When giving statements, most people would hesitate to lie to the police, which is a major offense that could send you to prison. This is more serious than any potential increase in your insurance rate.
An accident report is important, even if you opt to take care of the situation by yourself, without filing a claim with your insurance company. Remember, you are dealing with a stranger whose actions are unpredictable, so it is best to have an objective police officer who can record the details and not be clouded by emotions.
No matter what you decide, make sure you obtain your own photocopy of the police report. In addition to giving information, you should collect it as well. It could be a good idea to have your own notes listing the names of everyone you talk to, including the other parties, the responding officer and any witnesses. Be sure to take your own photos as well, to make certain that they coincide with the official record.
The police are there to protect and to serve so if you are involved in a car accident, they are the first that should be called. This is the best way to prevent any future surprises.
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