You’re having an ordinary day, driving to work or taking the kids to school. Then a car comes out of nowhere, and you’re in the middle of a car accident.
And while reporting a car accident might be the last thing on your mind in the moment, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your case.
When to Report an Accident to the Police
You might look at your accident and think you don’t need to call the police. After all, the damage is relatively minor, right? And if you’re both reporting the accident to your insurance companies, it should be fine, right?
Under Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 32 § 398, you must file an accident report to the local police station if your accident results in:
- Property damage exceeding $500
You must also forward a written report to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) within 24 hours of the accident if it results in:
- Property damage exceeding $100
This means that if you or another party are injured, you have to report the car accident to the police. And if your car is damaged, it’s reasonable to assume that the bill will be higher than $100. So no matter what, reporting an accident is always a good idea.
Insurance and Evidence Implications of Not Reporting a Car Accident
No matter how minor, we always advise clients that it’s a good idea to report an accident to the police. This is for two reasons: insurance and evidence.
If you are in a car accident, you have to report the event to your insurance company in order to make a claim. Your insurance company will then grant or deny your claim after an investigation of what happened. Here’s the catch: you have to provide evidence that things happened the way you say they did, in much the same way you would provide evidence in a lawsuit (in car accidents, you’re using the same set of evidence).
If you don’t call the police, you won’t get one of the most important items of evidence for your case: a police report, which is the starting point for every police investigation and the key piece of evidence in many car accident cases.
Without a police report, it’s your word against the other driver’s, and that may not end well. Remember, insurance companies are always looking for reasons to minimize or avoid paying out a claim. Don’t gamble on one interpretation over another. Do yourself a favor and report an accident right away.
How to Report an Accident
Here’s the good news: reporting a car accident is relatively simple. All you need to do is call 911. The responding police officer will generate a police report for you, which you or your attorney can request.
Keep in mind that if you’re in a minor accident like a fender bender, if there are no injuries, or if there’s a major public emergency, law enforcement may not respond to the scene. In that case, a police report will not be generated for you, and you have to file one after the fact.
This is also relatively easy–you can do it online, at your local police station, or through the DMV. If you’re not sure where to start or can’t find where to submit a report, visit or call your local police station and ask for guidance.
What Happens After an Accident?
When an accident happens, you’re likely afraid. You’re in shock. You’re trying to process what happened. But the period immediately after a car accident is a crucial time to build your accident case, and calling the police is just one small part of the equation.
Here’s what you need to do immediately after an accident.
Stay Calm and Stay Safe
First, do two things: stay calm and stay safe.
We know that a car accident is a traumatic experience. It’s startling and scary and seems to come out of nowhere. But panic will only make things worse. The best thing you can do for yourself and others is to take a breath, stay calm, and get your bearings. A calm demeanor will make it that much easier to think clearly.
Second, make sure to keep everyone safe. If you’re in oncoming traffic and can safely move your vehicle to the side, do so as soon as you can. Otherwise, turn on your hazard lights, and don’t leave your car if it’s not safe to do so. Make sure that everyone in your car is alright. Do not attempt to move someone who is seriously injured–you may inflict more harm.
Call the Police
After that, you have to call the police.
While you’re on the phone, stay calm and provide the relevant details. An officer will be dispatched to respond. Once the officer arrives, you should collect:
- Their name
- Their badge number
- Their phone number
- The police report number
If you have to, be politely persistent with the other driver and insist on a police report. Don’t be aggressive or rude, but don’t take no for an answer either.
The police will collect information for the report, but in the meantime, it’s your job to collect evidence too. This will help support your case further down the line and reinforce the message of the police report.
If you’re able to move around safely, you should collect the following:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Photos of damage to both cars
- Any street signs or landmarks indicating the location of the accident
- Photos showing any contributing weather conditions
- Any debris involved in the accident
- Contributing factors like obscured road signs
- The other driver’s name
- The other car’s make, model, year, color, and VIN
- The other driver’s insurance company
- The other driver’s insurance agent
- The other driver’s policy number
Do not allow anyone to take a photo of your driver’s license, and do not provide your address or contact information to other drivers, passengers, or witnesses.
Don’t Admit Fault
Whatever you do, do not admit fault.
Unfortunately, this can come out in unexpected ways–like saying you’re sorry. We know that a car accident is shocking and scary, and it’s natural to want to apologize as a way to smooth things over. However, in car accidents, an apology is interpreted as an admission of fault. Be polite, courteous, and helpful with the other driver, but do not apologize.
After Reporting a Car Accident, Our Team is Your Next Call
Reporting a car accident may feel like one more stressful thing to tack onto your list during a car accident. But it’s the best thing you can do to support your case.
For everything that comes after, our firm is here to help. From mild fender benders to multi-car collisions, we’ve seen it all–and we know how to fight for your best possible outcome. If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, click here to schedule your free consultation.