While you do not need to speak with an insurance adjuster immediately following your accident, speaking with a police officer may be different. In many cases, a police officer will be called to the scene before you are even left to question if you should call them yourself. In some situations, such as mild fender benders with no damage to either vehicle, a police officer does not need to be involved. So, how do you know if you are supposed to call the police after an accident?
If you have any doubt about whether you should call the police after a car crash, it’s better to err on the side of caution and file a police report. Most states require drivers to call the police in certain situations, including:
- when anyone is injured, or
- property damage exceeds the state’s threshold.
You should call the police when you think the other driver is at fault for the accident or might have committed a traffic violation.
Car Accident Police Reports
In cases involving injuries, substantial damage to the vehicles, or motor vehicle law violations, the officer will prepare a police report in connection with the crash. Make sure to get the name and badge number of the officer and the police agency that the officer represents so you can get a copy of the accident report after it’s written (see below). Get the report number if it’s available. You might have to pay a small fee to get the report, but it’s worth it. Everyone involved in a car insurance claim and a car accident lawsuit relies heavily on the police report.
Police reports typically document any physical evidence (like tire marks) at the scene of an accident and any witness statements. The report will list what traffic citations, if any, an officer issued and maybe even the officer’s opinion about who caused the accident. In other words, police reports are powerful evidence that can help you speed up the insurance claims process or win your lawsuit in court.
How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident
The fastest way to get a copy of a police report is to request it from the investigating officer’s agency, typically the local police department, sheriff’s office, or state highway patrol. Call the traffic division and provide them with the report number if you have it or your name and the date, time, and location of the accident. You might have to pay a small fee to get the report.
If you are willing to wait, you might be able to get a free copy of the police report from the insurance adjuster who is handling your claim.
If You Are in a Fender-Bender With No Injuries
Should you still call the police even if your accident is just a minor one? The answer is usually yes. Even after a minor accident, a police officer can help you sort things out, and document what happened in case your situation changes in the future. For example, the other driver might seem friendly and cooperative at the scene and then deny all responsibility later. Or your accident injuries might not show up right away. Call the police department’s non-emergency line and ask a dispatcher for advice.
If the police decline to come to the scene of your minor accident, you can go to the nearest police station and file a report yourself after you exchange information with the other driver. If there are any witnesses, get their names and contact information as well. Make a note of the exact location of the accident and how it happened. If you can, take pictures of the vehicles and the scene from multiple vantage points. Learn more about what to do after a car accident.
If the Law Enforcement Agency Tells You to Just Exchange Information
If you call the police, and they tell you to just exchange information with the other driver, what information should you exchange? At a minimum, make sure you get from the other driver(s)—and that the other driver(s) get from you—all of the following information:
- full name and contact information
- insurance company and policy number
- driver’s license and license plate number, and
- type, color, and model of vehicle.
If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each person.
Ask to see documents from which you can copy this information, such as a driver’s license and an insurance verification card. Why? Sometimes, people—like drivers who don’t have car insurance—give false information. If the other driver won’t let you verify information, call the police and insist that the driver stay until the police arrive.
If you are suspicious about the information you are getting, call the other driver’s insurance company from the scene of the accident to verify for yourself that the other driver has given you accurate information. But only verify coverage. Don’t give accident details to the other driver’s insurance company. Not yet. You can do that when you’re away from the scene of the accident and have had a chance to calm down and talk to your own insurer.
Should You Wait for the Police to Arrive?
If you call the police after a minor car accident, it might take an hour or more for an officer to arrive. It’s important to wait for them. While you are waiting, you should:
- assess the situation
- help anyone who is hurt
- gather evidence
- get the names and contact information for any witnesses
- protect the scene against further damage, and
- watch what you say to the other driver and anyone else at the scene.
Once a police officer arrives, only talk to the officer about the specifics of your accident. Provide the information that the officer requests, but say no more. Remember, any statement you make could end up in the police report and be used against you in your insurance claim or in court.
Spanish Speaking Car Accident Lawyer in Houston, Texas
Spanish-speaking individuals can have a more difficult time seeking justice in their personal injury cases due to language barriers. This causes them to not take action against those who have left them with financial devastation and physical trauma. At the Law Office of Beverly R. Caruthers, our team refuses to let a language barrier affect your right to justice and compensation. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident and is in need of Spanish-speaking legal advice, our team is here for you.
Personal Injury Lawyer in Houston, Texas
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car accident and suffered an injury, experienced loss of income, or are unable to work due to a car accident, you can benefit from the services of a Houston car accident expert in your personal injury case. Whether you missed work due to an injury or due to not having access to a vehicle, Attorney Beverly R. Caruthers can help you!