Almost all of us will be involved in a car crash at some point in our lives, but very few of us are confident as to what we should do immediately following the crash. Here is what officers want you to do.
Get Off of the Road!
The absolute first thing an officer will do is determine if anyone needs an ambulance, But then he’ll try to get everyone off of the road. First and foremost, this reduces the probability that someone else will get hurt by yet another car crash. Second, this reduces the physical impediment to traffic flow. Third, it reduces the visibility of the crash, and thereby the likelihood of secondary crashes caused by rubberneckers.
As for where to go, a nearby parking lot is ideal, a lesser side street isn’t bad, and the shoulder or median will do in a pinch. The idea is to minimize your chances of getting injured or killed by a secondary crash, so don’t worry about damaging your car in the effort. Your rims are probably shot anyway, and your life is more valuable either way!
If you are worried about the other driver leaving, by all means, use your smart phone to photograph their license plate, write it down, or call 911 and read it to the call taker immediately. Other than that, you’re just endangering yourself needlessly.
Don’t Worry About Documenting the Crash Scene
Police officers and insurance adjusters have plenty of experience with investigating car crashes, and are generally able to figure out how the crash happen, just by looking at the damage to the cars, the crash location, and talking to the parties involved. We have plenty of experience in figuring when the stories don’t match the facts, so let them lie, it’ll just make us want to hit them harder.
That said, unless there’s an independent witness to back one side or the other, you have a dash cam that recorded the crash, or there’s clear physical evidence, a BS claim of innocence could make a difference. If both stories appear to fit the available evidence, we have to assume everyone was doing their best to follow the law, and someone just misjudged the other’s speed, distance, etc. This means fault will fall to whoever did not have the legal right-of-way. Either way, leaving your car in the road or taking pictures of it there won’t make a difference.
Don’t Get Out of Your Car on the Road
Unless there’s a fire, or some other clear danger posed by staying in your vehicle, there’s no compelling reason to get out of your car on the road. If your car won’t move, just call 911, then wait for officers to arrive. Your car is designed to take a hit from another car. Your body isn’t, and we’d all rather deal with mangled cars than mangled bodies!
If there is some greater danger posed by your vehicle, then get to the nearest parking lot, shoulder, or median (that’s a safe distance from your now dangerous car) on foot, and try to keep a barrier wall, guardrail, or thick tree between you and traffic, just in case someone else has a bad driving day. If traffic has large gaps (where you could cross casually, with no question of safety), by all means move to a safer location, when the opportunity presents itself.
Call a Tow Truck to Clear the Road
Once you’ve made yourself as safe as you can, if your vehicle is stuck in a lane of traffic, and officers are not there yet, call a tow truck. You can wait on calling for a tow, if you managed to legally park your car, but if it’s obstructing traffic, the officer’s next goal will be to clear the roadway, to reduce secondary crashes, and restore traffic flow to normal.
If officers get there before you get on the phone with a tow service, then don’t bother, because their wrecker will beat yours to the scene easily. For public safety reasons, the officer has the authority to tow your vehicle with their contractor, at your expense, if theirs gets there first.
Now You Can Exchange Info
Once everyone is safe, and arrangements have been made to clear the roadway, exchange information. That’s what the officer’s final task involving you will be, so you might as well handle it on your own, if he ain’t there.
Don’t bother arguing over who was at fault. Most people don’t believe that crashes are their fault, and both your insurance companies and officers will make their own decision anyway. Just exchange info.
Info to Exchange
Insurance company name
Insurance company phone number
Insurance policy number
Vehicle license plate state
Vehicle license plate number
Drivers license state
Drivers license number
Driver’s phone number
Verify Insurance Coverage
Don’t let the other driver leave until you call their insurance company to verify that the policy is a valid, regardless of what it says on the card. People without coverage will often apply for coverage in order to get cards, but then make no payments, or sometimes one payment, in order to save money while getting apparent proof of insurance to deceive you and any officers they might encounter.
Don’t Expect a Police Report
In Texas, the law does not require crashes resulting in at less than $1000 of damage to any one person’s property to be reported at all, unless there is physical injury or death, and it is the officer’s agency that determines the criteria for when an officer will investigate the crash & generate a report.
Basically, this means that unless someone’s car is too mangled to move, or the ambulance is giving someone a ride, it’s between you, the other guy, and maybe your insurance companies. Of course, if the damages are under $1,000, whoever the at-fault party is has an incentive to pay out-of-pocket, rather than involve insurance companies, to keep their premiums down.
In most urban areas an officer will do a report that meets the guidelines, but as long as you provide the info noted above to the other guy, the law allows the drivers cut out and self-report crashes meeting the $1,000 property damage or injury threshold. This is to prevent you for waiting 20 hours on the side of the road for Podunk PD to finish their homocide investigation to take your crash report.
Don’t Fake Injuries
There are few things that will inspire an officer to confirm on minor arrest warrants or find tickets to write than BS injury claims! Some people will fabricate or exaggerate injuries to force officers into making an offical crash report and/or to try and profit with a fraudulent lawsuit. These claims are usually pretty easy to spot, because the damage to the car doesn’t match the injuries claimed, and you get pretty good at spotting fake injuries after a few years. It’s like when you claimed a belly-ache to avoid school as a kid. Don’t do it!
What do you think? What questions did I leave unanswered? Have you experienced anything different? Tell us about your experience!