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Should I call the police following an auto accident, even if it appears no one is injured?

Should I Call The Police

Yes. Although this does not necessarily involve your auto insurance coverage, it is an issue that often comes up in this context, so it is worth discussing. First and foremost, if someone is injured and requires emergency medical assistance, call 911 immediately.

Both emergency medical and authorities should be dispatched to the scene. If there are minor injuries or non-life-threatening injuries, it is still wise to contact authorities and obtain assistance from the dispatcher to determine whether emergency medical personnel should be dispatched to the scene as well.

In fact, even if it appears no one is injured, local authorities should still be contacted, and the accident should be reported. In this situation, you can contact authorities through a non-emergency number if you have one. Many times an officer will be dispatched to the scene to create a report, which is generally referred to as a Traffic Collision Report.

A Traffic Collision Report (or TCR) is always helpful if a claim is subsequently made because it provides full and complete information on the drivers, the vehicles, the vehicle insurance, and the circumstances surrounding the accident. Moreover, an officer and TCR are especially helpful when

  • it is unclear who is at fault,
  • the other driver is acting strange or refuses to provide his or her driver’s license and insurance information,
  • the accident involves multiple parties or vehicles,
  • the other driver is uninsured, or
  • something simply does not “feel right.”

If for some reason you are told that an officer will not be dispatched to the scene, it is important you obtain as much information as possible while still at the scene. If you have a smartphone or camera, snap photographs of all of the vehicles involved, the license plates of all vehicles, the drivers’ licenses of all drivers (and passengers for that matter), the insurance cards of all vehicles and drivers, and any important or relevant conditions, street signs or traffic controls surrounding the accident scene. In fact, most of these suggestions are applicable even if an officer is dispatched. After you take the photos, make sure to write down the driver and insurance information on a piece of paper just so it is preserved in hard copy. If you do not have a smartphone, write down as much of this information as you can on a piece of paper.

Also, know that California law requires that every driver involved in an accident exchange with any other driver the following information:

    1. driver’s name and current residence address;
    2. driver’s license number;
    3. vehicle identification number (VIN);
    4. current residence address of vehicle’s registered owner;
    5. evidence of insurance, which includes the name and address of the insurer and the number of the insurance policy. (Cal. Vehicle Code § 16025.)

This is good to know if another driver is refusing to provide certain information following an accident. Again, in that circumstance, it is probably wise to contact authorities to alert them of the situation and refusal.

DISCLAIMER:  This article is not a substitute for legal advice and in no way constitutes legal advice or gives rise to an attorney-client relationship. Adequate counsel is fact-dependent and requires independent analysis and inquiry specific to your situation and circumstances. This article is simply meant as a guide to explain in general and brief terms certain issues and serves to provide general information. Contact O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm at 916-714-8200 if you require legal help or wish to seek legal advice for your specific legal issue(s).