Panic, anger, disillusion, the moments that follow a car crash are always uncomfortable. Maybe you’ve been lucky to avoid this nerve-wracking situation, but those who’ve been there can attest to how challenging it can be to know what to do first. Do you call the insurance company? Is that wise? Will it be cheaper to make repairs out-of-pocket? And should you get the police?
Depending on where you live, your state’s laws around when it is mandatory to contact the local authorities will differ. It’s best to be prepared for this situation in case you ever have to do so. Here’s what to expect when you call the police and file a report.
Assessing the Crash
Remember that safety comes first in any car crash. The first thing you should do is ensure that you are unharmed, safe, and can begin the process of understanding the accident.
It is true that you’re not required to call the police in crashes where damage is very minor, and there are no injuries. What’s also true is that the trauma associated with even a minor crash can leave you rattled and impair your ability to understand the situation.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to contact the police if you are even a little unsure of the situation. People often behave courteously at the scene of the crash, but change stories after-the-fact.
Without a detailed police report and eyewitness accounts, you have nothing to go on but the word of someone who is most likely a complete stranger. If you can, it’s a good idea to ask people who might have seen the crash firsthand to stay and act as a witness.
Document everything that happened at the scene by taking pictures, you’ll need the information for the police report and also for your insurance adjuster should you choose to file a claim. Some insurance companies offer smartphone apps that will guide you through this process. The only time you can absolutely rule out contacting the police is if you hit a stationary object or have an accident with no other people involved.
Working with the Police
Do your best to have anyone else involved in the crash stay at the scene of the crash until police arrive. Filing a police report doesn’t mean that you have to press charges, it is just a means of documenting everything that occurred for reference later. Expect to have the police question you and anyone else involved in the crash.
You may receive a follow-up call or even more than one from a detective assigned to the case. Do your best to answer any questions honestly.
Make sure you have the contact information of the officer you’re working with, which you may have collected at the scene of the accident. This way, you can add any additional information that comes to mind and ask questions about the progress of a case if one is opened.
Drop Charges or Pursue Compensation
With the police report complete, you will have access to all of the information about the crash that was collected. You may have to pay a small fee to get a copy of the report. From there, no further action is necessary, but you will have the things you need to take legal action if you feel it’s appropriate.
Going to court is never fun. There are costs involved, and it may not be a good idea to pursue a court case that will create more debt in legal fees that would come out of just settling with the other party.
However, when things like personal injury are involved, there is sometimes no other way to resolve the issue. An investigation of fault can be conducted to determine who owes what in the aftermath of an accident.
Accidents are things you would prefer to avoid altogether, but with more and more people on the road every day it’s really more a matter when you’ll have an accident, not if. When it does happen, try and stay as calm as you can and be sure to take advantage of help from the police.