Why It’s Important to Report Accidents to the Police
An online publication that provides general advice to the public about issues involving money, reports that an average American driver has about four accidents during their driving career. Although some drivers may never have an accident, for most drivers, the question is when it will happen not if.
The next question is, what to do if it happens to you? Does Georgia law require you to report every motor vehicle accident to the police? What should the report include? How does it help you to have a police report? Are there consequences for not filing one?
Georgia Law Concerning Police Reports
Georgia law, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273, requires you to call the police who will file a report if you are involved in an accident where anyone is injured, no matter how slightly, or when property damage appears to be more than $500. The Georgia Department of Driver Services’ 2015 Driver’s Manual includes a helpful summary of this rule in Section 11, on page 56.
There are instances after a collision where a person says, “I’m fine”, only to wake up the next day with significant and increasing pain. A rush of adrenaline can mask many symptoms, even symptoms of injuries that lead to surgical intervention. You do not always know whether you are injured as the result of a motor vehicle collision. Additionally, it is even harder to assess whether the damage to both vehicles is less than $500. Internal damages are often costly and even “slight” repairs can add up quickly when factoring in parts, labor and other charges.
No matter how polite everyone is, no matter how “minor” the wreck appears, a good rule of thumb is to report the collision to the police each and every time. If they refuse to come to the scene, which may happen, you have the right to go to the police department and file a report.
What the Accident Report Should Include
If the police come to the scene of your accident, you have the right to review the report to make certain the information is correct. If you see something that you believe is wrong, politely ask the officer to make a correction. He or she may or may not agree and refuse to make the change. If this happens, make your own notes about the accident as soon as possible. Then contact the supervisor of the reporting officer and ask that he or she make the necessary changes.
If you have to go the police department, there is an official form for you to fill out, along with a blank for you to add comments. Whether the police make the report, or you make the report yourself at the department, the report should include:
- The date of the accident, including the time and the day of the week.
- The exact location of the accident. In addition to the city and county, make sure it includes what type of road it is, highway or surface street, along with any road markers, such as near a railroad crossing, and any significant landmark.
- A description of the weather conditions at the time. Was it rainy? foggy? Sunshiny?
- A description of the road condition, such as wet, dry, snowy, icy, mud, sand, or any other or any debris that may have been in the roadway that did not belong there.
- Relevant information about each driver, including name, address, phone number, date of birth and driver’s license number. You should look at the driver’s license of the other driver to note if it has expired or if there are any restrictions, such as “must wear corrective lenses.”
- Complete description of the vehicles involved, including make, model, year and license plate number.
- A narrative of what exactly happened.
- Names of passengers and any other witnesses to the accident.
- Any statements by third-party witnesses.
If you disagree with any part of the police report, make your own notes as soon as possible after the accident. Your notes should be dated and be as detailed as possible. Additionally, be sure to reference any pictures or videos you may have taken at the scene. A complete police report, along with your own notes, pictures and videos will make it much easier for your attorney to prevail in your claim against the insurance company or any future criminal or civil proceedings.
Consequences of Failing to Make a Police Report
Depending on the facts surrounding the wreck, there could be legal consequences for not making a police report. The failure to have a report will likely have a negative effect on your ability to collect on your insurance claim or to prove who was at fault for the accident, an important element under Georgia’s contributory negligence law, which reduces the amount a person may collect for damages depending on their level of fault.
If you, a friend, or loved one were injured as a result of a car accident, contact Georgia Trial Attorneys for a free case evaluation.