When a car accident happens, it is best to notify both your insurance company and the local police as soon as possible. However, this may not always be necessary in situations where you are only involved in a minor accident with minimal damage.
Keep in mind that the main purpose for filing a police report is to have concrete evidence that the accident actually happened and a summary of the details. This documentation is beneficial for people making insurance claims or bringing lawsuits at a later time.
What to do at the scene?
At minimum, you should always at least contact the other driver and exchange information. Leaving the scene without contacting the other driver is considered a crime in every state in the U.S. Some jurisdictions require you to notify the police while at the accident scene as well, so it is important to research local laws.
If the police are not contacted immediately after the accident, it will be difficult for them to verify that the damage actually happened due to the accident and not some other incident. Your insurance company may not have any proof from an independent source if you attempt to make a claim to receive compensation for repairs.
As a general rule, it is best to notify the police immediately so that you have documentation to share with your insurance provider. They may not allow you to make a claim without it. Some insurance providers will allow you to make claims without a police report for minor accidents, but it is still best to check with them before leaving the scene or know their policies in advance.
Can police be notified later after both drivers have left the scene?
While the police can technically be contacted in the days following an accident, it is generally not going to help. Most state laws will allow the police to be contacted up to a week later. However, without seeing the vehicles involved and the damage at the scene, there is not much for them to report and whatever documentation they give you may be insufficient for the insurance process. Some departments may not be willing to give you an official report if days have already passed since the incident occurred. They cannot do a full investigation or determine who was at fault.
You can check with the department in the municipality where the accident happened to see if they will still give you a report after the fact, but it would have been better for them to actually view the accident scene. If a doctor discovers that you were injured during the accident at a later time, the missing police report can be significant and it may hinder your ability to file a lawsuit or get money from the other driver’s insurance company.
If the police do not or cannot respond to the accident scene after they are contacted, it is best to try to take pictures and gather as much information as possible to create your own record.
Learn more about motor vehicle accidents and the insurance process
There are attorneys available all over the country who can assist you with getting help following an automobile accident. Use the listings on USAttorneys.com to find a licensed legal professional in your area.