Should I Call The Police?
6 REASONS YOU SHOULD CALL THE POLICE TO THE CRASH SCENE
In a previous Sandler Solution we talked about the scene of the crash and how important it is to preserve the scene by taking pictures and videos. The goal is to obtain evidence, NOW, so that you can prove your case LATER. The same need for evidence applies to the need for police to be called to the scene of your crash.
The general rule is ALWAYS CALL THE POLICE. With the exception of parking lot crashes (where some police departments don’t dispatch), there a several really good reasons to call 911 when you are in a crash.
First – If you are hurt, or your passenger or a pedestrian is hurt, you must call 911. 911 calls initiate a response by Emergency Medical Services and potentially the fire department, as well as police. Not only will these agencies provide you with needed emergency medical care and potential transport to a hospital, they will also document your complaints.
Second – The police will ensure that there is a proper exchange of information between drivers. This information is critical as it will be the basis for establishing insurance coverage, help with identity issues (some people lie about who they are), help with ownership of vehicles, and give your lawyer the ability to quickly communicate with the proper insurance company. Remember in Class 3, I told you to take pictures of the license plates, registration, etc? They don’t replace the info obtained by the police, because, surprise, people are less likely to lie to a cop than to you!
Third – Most of the time the police officer will prepare a formal, type-written police crash report. This report is based upon the information obtained by the officer at the scene and will describe the scene, the conditions, estimates of speed of vehicles, contain a diagram of the crash and a narrative of the way the crash occurred. I can’t tell you how many times an insurance adjuster has dragged their feet on a claim based upon what the bad guy has told them, until I get them a copy of the report and they change their tune.
Fourth – Here is the most misunderstood element of what police do at the scene. If the circumstances support it, the officer may issue a traffic citation to one of the drivers (hopefully, not you). THE ISSUANCE OF A TRAFFIC TICKET IS NOT ADMISSIBLE IN THE TRIAL OF YOUR CIVIL CASE IN VIRGINIA.
Whether a ticket is issued is based upon the conclusion of the officer and is not binding on anyone. If the bad guy goes to Court, he can either be guilty or not guilty, but NEITHER is admissible, because the legal procedures are different between a traffic case and a civil case for damages. Unless the bad guy pleads guilty or no contest, a civil jury will never hear about the ticket or the outcome.
But it’s not irrelevant to bad guy’s insurance company. The fact that an officer on the scene concluded that the bad guy deserved a ticket for running a light or sign, or failure to yield or following too closely, for example, is often enough to cause the bad guy’s insurance company to conclude that their insured WILL LIKELY BE CIVILLY AT FAULT, and that opens the door to resolving your claim.
Fifth - At the scene of your crash you may see the officer talking to people who stopped to either render help to you as the victim, or who may have seen the crash (or what led up to it). The bad news is that you naturally assume that the officer is making notes of the contact information for those people, so that you can talk with them later, to find out what they saw or heard. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. While the officer may be investigating the crash, he or she is ONLY doing it to find out whether to issue a ticket (except for death cases). The officer is NOT there to accumulate witnesses for your eventual civil case. You can’t rely on the officer getting the witness info, and that witness may be the ONLY PERSON WHO SAVES YOUR CASE. Take the time to get the info yourself, or make certain that the officer has it. Officers carry printed Witness Statement Forms. Ask them to give them to the Witnesses and keep them for yourself.
Sixth - While fortunately it does not happen often, some bad guys at crash scenes are really, really bad guys. Under circumstances of stress and potential liability, some people get aggressive, argumentative, belligerent, and may put you in fear. Police are equipped to diffuse the situation and protect you, so call them BEFORE you find out that the situation has escalated from a simple crash to road rage.
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