Law enforcement constantly has to deal with calls regarding auto accidents in every city. This is such a common occurrence that some departments even have employees or divisions that dedicate all of their time to auto accident response and investigations. These police officers provide accident reports and other materials during their response at the scene. Insurance companies and lawyers who handle accidents use these materials for a number of important reasons, including paying out claims to accident victims or proving fault in a civil lawsuit.
There are standard procedures that all drivers must follow after an accident. Avoiding these responsibilities can cause issues later which may include fines, penalties from your insurance company, or even criminal charges.
Proper procedures following all accidents
While it is not necessary to contact the police following every car accident, at minimum you must make contact with the other driver and exchange information. Depending on your insurance company, they may want you to contact the police regardless of the severity of the accident. Most insurance companies provide instructions on insurance cards or by phone as to how to respond after every accident. It is important to follow these instructions, as this will help your insurance claim get processed quickly and evidence from the scene may also be used if you need to file a lawsuit against the other driver and their insurance company.
If the police are not contacted, your insurance company will not have a formal accident report available. This gives them less evidence to process your claim and hold the other driver responsible. In some situations, drivers can get in more serious trouble for not notifying the proper authorities.
When is a driver required to call the police?
Many states require the police to be contacted if someone is hurt or there appears to be severe damage to a car or any other property. If they are not contacted in these situations, there may be criminal penalties and the insurance company may refuse to pay a claim or take other actions against you. To avoid issues later or disputes with the other driver, it is best to always contact the police if there is any doubt regarding how you should handle an accident. If it appears that there are serious injuries, extensive property damage, or effects on nearby traffic, these situations need to be handled quickly by emergency personnel and you should call 911 to get a quick response and resolve the problem as soon as possible.
What happens if you do not contact anyone after an accident and just leave?
Leaving the scene of an accident without contacting the other driver or the police is a crime in every state in the U.S. In most places, this is a misdemeanor that can result in penalties such as fines, probation, or even jail time depending on the situation and your prior record. If someone is hurt and the police are not contacted at the scene, it is also possible for one or both of the drivers to be penalized or arrested.
Learn more about how to proceed after any kind of motor vehicle accident
To get help following an accident, contact a lawyer who practices in this area. They will provide guidance about how to proceed based on your situation.