How to Report a Car Accident to the Police

How to Report a Car Accident to the Police

Reporting a car accident to the police is a crucial step following a collision, and time is a significant factor. For example, in Texas, you have a two-year window from the accident date to file a legal claim, after which your right to compensation may be forfeited. However, it's important to note that this two-year period is specifically for personal injury claims and not necessarily for reporting the accident to the police. Reporting the accident to the police should ideally be done immediately or as soon as possible after the accident occurs.

In this article, the professionals at Stewart J. Guss, Injury Lawyers, discuss when and how to file such a report and why hiring an attorney can make the process much easier.

Determining When to Report an Accident

In the aftermath of a car accident, it's crucial to understand when reporting to the police is mandated by law and to recognize the thresholds that determine the severity of an accident.

You must report a car accident to the police in certain situations dictated by state laws. Typically, these situations include the following:

  • Any accident causing personal injury or death
  • Check with local regulations as thresholds vary, but usually, if the property damage exceeds a specific dollar amount, such as $500 or $1,000
  • Hit-and-run incidents in which one or more parties leave the scene without exchanging information or aiding the others
  • Accidents implicating federal or state vehicles or damage to government property

Severity Thresholds

Determining the severity is essential for both reporting purposes and potential insurance claims. For example:

  • Minor damage, such as scratches and small dents, may not require reporting if within the permissible cost limit
  • Significant damage, such as bent frames and broken windows likely surpasses the financial threshold for reporting
  • If a vehicle is inoperable post-accident, a report is usually necessary
  • Any accidents that may cause public harm or obstruction should be reported for public safety reasons

Your responsibility to report depends on these specifics, and being aware of the requirements in your area helps ensure compliance with legal standards.

Preparing Information for the Report

Before you contact the police, gather all necessary information to ensure an accurate and complete report. This will aid in the investigation and any insurance claims.

Personal Details

  • Your legal name as on your driver's license
  • The address listed on your driver's license or current residence
  • Your best contact number and email address
  • Driver's License Number
  • Insurance policy number and contact details for your insurer

Vehicle Information

  • Make, model, and year of your vehicle
  • License plate number or information from the registration tag on your vehicle
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is a unique code for your vehicle, usually found on the dashboard or inside the driver's side door
  • Condition of vehicle, specifically any prior damage before the accident

Accident Specifics

  • Date and time when the accident occurred
  • The specific location where the accident happened
  • A brief, factual summary of events
  • List and photograph damage to your vehicle
  • Names and contact details of any witnesses

Contacting the Police

Understanding how to report a car accident to the police properly is vital for your safety and for the legal process that may follow. It is important to know the difference between emergency and non-emergency situations, as well as which police department has jurisdiction over the location of the accident.

Emergency vs. Non-Emergency Reporting

In an emergency, it's essential to report the situation promptly.

If there are injuries, the accident is blocking traffic, or you feel in danger, call 911 for immediate assistance. When you call, provide your exact location, a brief description of the incident, and any immediate medical needs to help the responders assist you efficiently.

For non-emergencies with no injuries and traffic not blocked, use the non-emergency numbers provided by local authorities. Look up the local non-emergency police number in advance for convenience so you can contact the appropriate authorities without delay in a non-emergency situation.

Local vs. State Jurisdiction

If the accident occurs within a town or city, contact the local police. Identifying the appropriate local department based on the accident location is crucial to ensure that the authorities respond promptly and effectively.

On the other hand, if the accident occurs on highways or state roads, you’ll need to call the state police. When reporting such an accident, locate the contact information for the regional state trooper barracks to ensure that the incident is reported to the proper authorities.

Filing the Report

If you prefer to report the accident in person, visit your nearest police station immediately. Be ready to provide the following:

  • Your driver's license
  • Vehicle registration
  • Insurance details
  • A concise description of the incident

You will likely be asked to fill out an accident report form, so it's crucial to describe the event clearly and to the best of your memory.

In some jurisdictions, you may have the option to report accidents online or via telephone, particularly for minor accidents without injuries.

For online reporting, you can access your local police department's website and complete the necessary form with details such as the date, time, location of the accident, and any other driver's information.

If you choose telephone reporting, you can call the designated non-emergency number and provide the officer with the exact details mentioned above.

Remember to ask for a report number for your records after completing the reporting process, no matter the method.

After Reporting: Next Steps

Once you have reported the car accident to the police, your next steps involve notifying your insurance company and managing the accident documents effectively.

Insurance Notification

Notify your insurance company immediately after the accident. Provide them with the accident report number the police provided you. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Timeliness: Contact them as soon as possible to start the claims process.
  • Information: Prepare your insurance policy number, accident details, and the other driver’s information.

Obtaining and Maintaining Records

Gather and organize all documents related to the accident. Proper documentation will be critical for insurance and potential legal processes, so it’s vital that you gather and organize all documents related to the accident. For example:

  • Obtain a copy of the police report for your records
  • If you received medical attention, secure copies of all related medical documents
  • Compile photographs of the accident scene, damage to the vehicle, and any injuries sustained as evidence
  • When possible, include contact information and statements from witnesses

Why You Need a Car Accident Attorney

Being in a car accident can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to dealing with legal matters. That's where a car accident attorney comes in to ensure your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve.

Here's how a car accident attorney can help you:

  • Understanding Your Rights: Attorneys ensure you're not unfairly blamed or offered less compensation than you deserve by explaining your rights.
  • Negotiation with Insurance Companies: They advocate for you to ensure that insurance companies don't downplay the value of your claim.
  • Accruing Evidence: Attorneys gather evidence to support your claim and establish the other driver's liability.
  • Managing Legal Procedures: They handle all the legal paperwork and deadlines, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
  • Litigation: If your case goes to court, a skilled attorney will present your case effectively for fair judgment.

In addition, most car accident attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means:

  • There are no upfront costs
  • Legal fees are only paid if they win your case
  • The fees come from the settlement, not from your pocket

This payment structure makes legal help accessible to everyone, regardless of financial status. If you've been in a car accident, don't hesitate to seek the legal assistance you deserve. There's help available, and you don't need to commit financially to explore your options.

We’re Here to Help.

If you have suffered an injury or the loss of a loved one as a result of someone else's actions in a car accident, it is essential to consult with a lawyer to explore your options for seeking compensation.

The personal injury lawyers at Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers have extensive experience in handling car accident injury claims in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, California, and Georgia. We recognize the difficulties you are encountering, which is why our Houston car accident attorneys are committed to alleviating the legal burdens while you concentrate on recovery.

With over 20 years of experience, Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers is the firm to approach if you are involved in a car accident, whether a minor collision or a major pileup.

We offer FREE consultations 24/7, so there is no need to delay in understanding your rights. Do not hesitate to seek the assistance you deserve. Get in touch with us now to connect with a car accident lawyer in your area. 866-Trust-Guss (866-878-7848)