What to Do if You Are in a Car Accident: Contact the Police
Once you’ve gotten your bearings and made sure no one in the car is injured (or, if they are, after you have obtained proper emergency care for them), it is of utmost importance and time to call the police. The accident report you fill can be a potentially crucial document that can prove useful in making an insurance claim, disputing a ticket, or even going to court. Making a statement on-site, with the vehicles in view and the incident in recent memory, is the best way to record the events of the accident for future recounting. You might call it cowardice to call the police even for minor car accidents, but this is a good rule of thumb even when it seems the damage is minimal and no one has been injured. When silent fears have gripped you, it can be nearly impossible to gauge the extent of the damages accurately—you might find that they run deeper than a flouted red light and inflamed tempers when the adrenaline simmers down and there is no police report, you wish you had done more than exchange information. When you file an accident report, you have the means in your possession to defend your claim with some authority. If the actions of another driver are causally connectable to an injury you sustain, that connection should be held in police records where you can access it in a pinch. A few minutes is the only price you pay for that security. On the other hand, failure to complete this undemanding task may cause you to fall into despair later when the accusations fly, and coverage you didn’t realize you needed at the time is denied. Another advantage of calling the police to the scene is that it prevents a rogue driver from getting off scot-free. Should they attempt to vanish in thin air when asked for their insurance information, they can be held accountable for violating Utah law 41-6a-401, which dictates they “shall remain at the scene of the accident or the location described…until [they have] fulfilled the requirements of this section,” including exchanging insurance and registration information, calling the police, etc. Failure to complete these tasks constitutes a class B misdemeanor…and even aside from the legal repercussions, leaving without calling the police leads insurance adjusters to suspect that you would have gotten a ticket had they examined the scene. Filing a police report isn’t tattling, but a necessary procedure for proving that you have nothing to hide. Although the interaction with the police should be taken very seriously, the report need not include every breath you take. It needs to reflect the events of the accident from your point of view. You shouldn’t act as if you just don’t care or indicate the depth of your distress, either—such commentary is irrelevant at best and incriminating at worst. The accident report should be straightforward and purely factual. If you need some time for reflection, sort things through in your own head before binding yourself to a narrative. Do not fill out a report in haste or with the objective of giving a certain impression, but do be thorough, as impassive as possible, and easy to understand. To find out more about the proper accident guidelines check out our legal resources page.
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