You have just been in car iaccident. After you make sure that you, your passengers and the people in the other vehicles are safe, the first thing on your mind should be to call 911 and ask for the police to come.
In addition to all the common sense things for which you need an officer, you want to have an officer complete a police report, which is also called a Traffic Collision Report. I discuss more about this in my FREE BOOK 9 Mistakes that Can Ruin Your California Vehicle Accident Case.
Always Get the Report
Sometimes one of the other drivers will say it was his or her fault, offer to pay for your vehicle damage and ask that you not call the police. That is something that you do not want to do. Many times these drivers change their minds as soon as they leave the collision scene. Then you have to try to chase them down to get the matter resolved.
Is Anyone Injured?
One of the first problems you will encounter is the 911 or police operator asking you the same question they always ask: “Is anyone injured?” The problem that it creates for you is that, if you answer “no,” many police departments will not send an officer to investigate. The Traffic Collision Report is very valuable to you, after a collision, and you want to have an officer complete one, if at all possible.
Asking if you are injured is really unfair to you because you don’t yet know if you are injured. You may be injured and your neck and back may not even start to hurt until the next morning. Many injuries suffered in a motor vehicle collision don’t show themselves for a day or two.
I suggest that you answer that you do not need an ambulance, but do need an officer to respond. That way you are not tying up an ambulance that might be needed more elsewhere. At the same time, you are making it clear that you want an officer to come to the accident scene.
The next problem that can occur is that the officer comes to the scene but tells you that he or she does not want to complete a report. I suggest that you advise the officer that you want a report and would appreciate it if he or she would do one. You cannot make the officer do the report, but you should try as hard as reasonably possible to have the officer do it. If the officer has no other calls of greater importance, he or she will sometimes go along with your request and create the report.
If you can get an officer to complete a report, you have just overcome the first of the problems you are going to have to deal with after a motor vehicle collision. There are several benefits you will obtain by having the report completed.
One of the first benefits of having the officer complete a report is that the officer will obtain important information from all the drivers in the collision. The officer is trained to obtain the other drivers’ names, addresses and phone numbers, as well as the license plate numbers of the vehicles and the registered owner of each vehicle.
What Officer Will Do
The officer will also obtain the names of the insurance companies and the policy number of each driver. This information will become very important at a later date. It will be essential to have in the event the other driver or drivers fail to report the accident to their insurance companies.
This information will enable you, or your attorney, to open a claim with the other insurance company. When you send them the police report you will have the information the adjuster for the insurance company of the other driver needs concerning their insured drivers.
The officer is also trained in taking witness statements. The police officer will separate the drivers and start taking statements from each one by one. The officer will ask the drivers what happened and will then re-state their explanations in a general way in the report.
These statements are important for a number of reasons. One is that people are a little more hesitant to be untruthful to a police officer after an accident than they would be to you. People sometimes try to lie to the police officer, but most of them will give an honest statement to a uniformed officer. The statements are also being taken not long after the accident occurred, so the memories of the drivers are most accurate.
These statements will be very valuable at a later time, especially if the other driver decides to change his or her story. It will be very hard for drivers who change their stories to convince others, such as insurance adjusters or a jury, that they didn’t say what the police officer wrote down, right after the accident.
The officer is also trained to observe and record any physical evidence available. If there are skid marks, the officer will measure their length, direction of skid and which vehicle they came from. Using the length of these skid marks and the make, model and weight of the vehicle leaving them, it is possible to accurately calculate the speed of that vehicle prior to impact of the accident. If a lawsuit occurs, trained accident investigators can make these mathematical calculations from the physical evidence recorded by the officer.
Other physical evidence will be observed and recorded by the officer. If pieces of chrome or other metal are lying on the roadway, the officer is trained to show on a diagram where those pieces of metal were found at the collision scene.
Using the skid marks and this physical evidence, the officer will plot the point of impact (POI) of the vehicles. If there was more than one vehicle involved, the officer will calculate and diagram all the POI’s for all the vehicles. These POI’s are some of the first things that insurance adjusters look at in determining who was at fault in an accident.
If there were passengers in the vehicles, the officer will record their names, addresses and phone numbers. The officer may also take statements from the passengers to find out their version of the facts.
Using all of the physical evidence and statements, the officer will come up with a cause of the accident. The officer will indicate which driver the officer finds was at fault for the collision. The officer will often include the state vehicle code section that the at-fault driver violated in causing the collision.
Will The Officer Write a Ticket?
The officer has discretion whether to issue a citation to the at-fault driver. Many times the officer will name the at-fault driver, name the state vehicle code section violated, but not issue a citation. It is basically up to the officer.
After the accident, the officer should give you a small card with his or her name and badge number. That card will also have the report number and the place you can obtain the written report. You should make sure not to lose or misplace that card. It will make obtaining the report easy and convenient.
There should be a phone number on the card, which you can call to see if the written report is ready. When it is, you can go to the facility address, pay a small fee of a few dollars and pick up the report.
When the officer finds one of the other drivers at fault, you have resolved one of the main issues in your case. This is because the insurance adjuster of the at-fault party, once he or she receives a copy of the report, is going to believe the officer before believing the insured driver.
What the officer writes in the report is viewed as the most accurate and unbiased statement of who caused the accident. This is because the officer is not associated with any of the drivers Involved in the accident. The officer has no bias in favor of one driver over another. As such, the officer is viewed by the insurance company as the most highly trained, unbiased and accurate observer of the facts. The officer’s opinion as to the cause of the accident is thus almost always accepted as the truth.
This is important for you, because once the insurance company of the at-fault driver accepts liability for their insured’s accident, that insurance company will authorize payment for the repair of your vehicle. This means that, should you have a deductible on your own policy, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay for the repair of your vehicle without you having to pay a deductible.
If the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company dispute liability, in spite of the Traffic Collision Report, the report will still be important to you. If you retain an attorney and a lawsuit is filed, your attorney will take the deposition of the at-fault driver under oath. If the other party made statements to the officer that help your case and hurt the case of the other party, the following is what your attorney can do in a deposition.
If a Deposition is Taken
A deposition is a proceeding held in an attorney’s office. The court reporter is a notary public, authorized by California law to administer the same oath as the one given in a courtroom. The court reporter takes down everything that is said on record in the deposition. This means that the claimant has been placed under the same oath as the one given in a courtroom. It is a process for obtaining an oral statement under oath before trial.
During the deposition, your attorney will read each sentence of the other party’s statements to the officer in the report. Then your attorney will ask the other driver “Is that what you told the officer at the accident scene?” The at-fault driver will usually agree that what the officer wrote down as a statement is what he or she told the officer.
The other party has then testified under oath as to the statements he or she made that are favorable to your case.
The other party will have a hard time denying at trial that he or she made those statements.
By the end of the deposition, your attorney has locked the at-fault driver’s statements to the officer into evidence, so that he or she can’t change the story at trial.
Should the at-fault driver change his or her story at trial, your attorney will simply ask this person if he or she said one thing under oath at the deposition and is now saying something different under oath at trial. When the driver answers yes, your attorney will then ask, “So when were you being untruthful, in your deposition or now at trial?”
This usually leaves the at-fault driver in a bad situation, since he or she had to have been lying in one of the statements. Juries are not usually kind to people who lie under oath.
Conclusionof of Part One of this Report
As you can see from the above discussion, it is critical that you obtain a police Traffic Collision Report, if at all possible. If you cannot, what you are going to do at rhe car accident scene is set forth in part two of this article.
Part two of this article is found at Mission Viejo Car Acicident Attorney | Call for Traffic Collision Report Pt 2
Whatever else you do in regard to your accident, please feel free to call me to discuss it and any concerns you may have.
You can call me to discuss your case with me, at no charge, at 949-496-7000 or toll free at 877-320-1338. You can also e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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wishing you good health and safety.