The Atlanta Police have recently indicated that they may stop responding to the scene of car wrecks if nobody claims to be hurt because of Covid-19 concerns. (Story here https://www.ajc.com/news/crime/atlanta-police-wont-respond-to-car-wrecks-if-no-ones-hurt/P2GBOTNW7JCVZFBTVFLZA7S2HM/) This is a terrible policy! Without a police investigation done at the scene of a crash, and a crash report containing the drivers’ statements as to what happened, proving fault can get difficult in many instances. If you are involved in a crash caused by another driver but you cannot prove the fault of the other driver, then the other driver’s insurance company has a green light to deny responsibility and refuse to pay for the damage to your car or for your injuries.
In the cases where the drivers exchange information and do not call the police, we often see problems. If you do not have the full information off of the other driver’s license, it can be hard to determine who they are to file a claim or a lawsuit. If all you have is a name, such as “Robert Smith” and a phone number, how do you expect to determine which Robert Smith out of the hundreds in Georgia is the one who crashed into your car? We also see disputes that arise after a crash as to who was at fault. The at-fault driver gets home and starts worrying about his or her insurance rates going up and then they change their description about how the crash occurred to avoid responsibility. Who suffers? The person who did not cause the crash. Because there was no police investigation and no crash report, the person who did not cause is left “holding the bag” so to speak because they do not have the necessary facts documented to show the other driver was at fault. They have to rely on their own insurance to cover the damage to their car if they even have full coverage, and this means they will owe a deductible. If they did not buy collision coverage, then they are really bad off and they are left to pay for the full property damage to their car out of their own pocket.
What can you do to protect yourself if someone crashed into your car and the police will not come to the scene? Below is a list of things to do if you have a crash. Not only will these things help in the case of a property damage claim, but they will also help if you were injured. In a number of cases, we have handles for clients, when the crash happens the drivers are upset and their adrenaline is flowing and they are in a state of shock. We have had many clients that did not feel any injury at the scene of the crash. When they got home and began to calm down a few hours later, they began to have stiffness and pain in their body and decide to go to the hospital for evaluation. When no police come to the scene to investigate the crash, it will normally mean evidentiary problems down the road.
HERE ARE THE STEPS TO TAKE IF THE POLICE WILL NOT COME TO THE SCENE OF THE CRASH
- Call 911. When you call, be sure to give them a detailed account of what happened in the crash and why the other driver is at fault. Give them your tag number and the other driver’s tag number. Give them your name, date of birth, driver’s license number, and phone number. Give them the other driver’s information, name, date of birth, driver’s license number and phone number if they will provide it. If you can, put the other driver on the phone with 911. If there is a later dispute as to who caused the crash, the 911 call recordings can be obtained by an Open Records Act request and you may have given enough info during the 911 call to help prove who was at fault.
- When possible, record the entire interaction with the other driver and any witnesses on your phone. Be sure to get their name and tag number and phone number at the very least. If you can even video their driver’s license and insurance card.
- Take photos of the scene, the cars involved, any skid marks, tag numbers, and damages to the cars. Try to get pictures of the driver’s license and insurance card of the other driver. If you can, get the witness to write their name, address, and phone number. Don’t let the other driver just write down their name and address and phone number. We have seen cases in the past where the at fault driver intentionally gave a false name and number.
- If a witness stayed at the scene, ask them to allow you to record on your phone their statement of what happened and who they think is at fault for the crash. Be sure they give their name and number on the recording.
- Report the crash to your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, but if the police did not come to the scene and you are hurt, you want to speak with an experienced injury lawyer first. Be aware that insurance companies train their staff to interview prospective claimants and to ask certain questions to see if they can get out of paying the claim. They are trained to be very kind during the call so as to give the impression they are there to help you, but you need to clearly understand that they are seeking information they can use against you. If they can get you to say you could have done something to avoid the crash and the negligence of their driver, then they can place a percentage of fault on you. For example, if someone turned left in front of you and you hit them in the intersection even though you had the green light and right of way, they could say you should have avoided the other car by stopping sooner or by swerving to the left or right based on how you answered their questions. If they place 25% fault on you by not seeing the other driver turn left and stopping sooner, then they will only be willing to pay 75% of your property damage.
Call Dan Chapman & Associates before you do anything. We have experienced injury lawyers and we will help you document your claim and give you all of the information you need to protect yourself when the police refuse to come to the scene and help protect you. We offer free consultations and we charge no fees unless we win your case.