In the aftermath of a car accident, your mind will likely be whirling. But these highly intense moments right after a crash are also some of the most critical when it comes to the legal case arising from your accident and injuries, so you should be aware of some important and helpful steps that can help you later on.
First, you should call 911 immediately if anyone appears to need medical attention. Once you’ve made sure everyone is all right and out of harm’s way, among the immediate things you should do are calling the police and calling your auto insurer to place reports. While people decide not to report auto accidents for a variety of different reasons, doing so is almost always a big mistake.
Why You Need a Police Report
Not every car accident needs to be reported to the police, though it’s almost always a good idea. While laws vary from state to state, accidents involving damage to people or property typically need to be reported. In North Carolina, drivers must report crashes that result in fatality or injury as well as those resulting in property damage of $1,000 or more. A crash occurring on private property does not necessarily need to be reported — but again, deciding not to report a crash could lead to regret later on.
There are several arguments in favor of always filing a police report. For one thing, it makes sure you’re always in compliance with the law. While it’s legal in certain circumstances to not report a minor collision, it’s never against the law to report a crash — so rather than try to figure out the law in your circumstance, you might as well err on the side of caution and avoid any potential for trouble with the police.
Filing a police report can also assist with other aspects of an auto accident. For example, some injuries don’t become apparent right away, such as neck and back pain, traumatic brain injuries, etc. The same can be said for unseen damage to your vehicle. When these hidden problems do become evident, the insurance claims process for dealing with them can be much simpler with a police report on file.
If your car crash involved another vehicle, the police report will also become an important record of events. The other party may make false claims at a later time or refuse to take responsibility for their actions, even if they did so in person at the scene. Along with your statement and those of any witnesses, the police report could strengthen your case. If you have any reason to think you may need to file a lawsuit for damage to your property or your injuries — or even if you’re not sure and would just like to think about it — it’s absolutely critical that you call and make a report with the police.
Failing to report a collision when you’re required to do so by law could have significant consequences. Depending on the state you are in, you may incur a fine or have your license suspended for a period of time.
As for making the report itself, the police officer at the scene will generally create the report and fill it with all necessary information after talking to you and others at the scene. However, if an officer does not arrive to the scene of the accident due to road conditions or the unique circumstances of your collision, you might need to file a report yourself, either online or at the police station.
In the event that you do need to file a police report yourself, be sure to include:
- A complete description of the incident, including how many people were in both cars
- Name and insurance information of everyone involved
- Names of witnesses and their detailed accounts of the crash (it’s a good idea to ask their permission to record their statement on your phone.)
- Details about damages and injuries, with pictures if possible
Informing Your Auto Insurer
When it comes to insurance, most drivers worry about rising premiums in the wake of an auto accident, which occasionally leads them to conceal the accident from their insurer. However, not filing a report with your insurance company is a great way to make things worse later on. The only time when informing the insurance company is truly unnecessary is after a low-speed, single-vehicle mishap that causes only minor property damage for you (like backing into your own fence or mailbox).
In talking to your auto insurance provider after a car accident, be careful of the language you use and stick to the facts. Resist any temptation to admit fault or give your opinion about what happened.
The benefits of talking with the insurance company, however, don’t extend to the other driver’s insurer. The other party’s insurance company may ask you for a statement, but you’re under no obligation to give them one and you should never do so before you consult with an experienced attorney. It’s not uncommon for another party’s insurance company to try and use a voluntary statement against you at a later time.
Myers Law Firm: Your Personal Injury Attorneys
While we hope you and your loved ones are never in a car accident, Myers Law Firm is ready to help if the worst should happen. Our philosophy is to be honest and trustworthy in all that we do and guide you through the most difficult times.
To schedule a free consultation, please complete the contact form on our site or call (888) 376-2889 toll free. We can help you navigate through the complex circumstances after a car wreck, and the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get to work on your case.
How to file an accident report with the police. (2016, September 8). DMV.org. Retrieved from http://www.dmv.org/insurance/how-to-file-an-accident-report-with-the-police.php
North Carolina Crash Report Instruction Manual (Publication No. DMV-349). (2006, February). North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0ahUKEwiSxJv3o5zPAhVLcz4KHQDbDA4QFghIMAY&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nhtsa.gov%2Fnhtsa%2FstateCatalog%2Fstates%2Fnc%2Fdocs%2FNC_DMV349_Instruction_Manual_rev_2_2006_sub_2_9_2009.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHINP7Yk4aBO2CFPKLuBHsUvPXSbw&sig2=BceaPhdJy6VDxlZWClwfhQ