If you are involved in a car accident, one of the first steps you should do is call 911 so that dispatch can send a police officer to the scene. Even if the accident is a minor fender bender, it is still highly recommended that you notify the police. However, if you report the accident and a police officer does not respond, you may be left wondering what to do next, particularly since police reports can provide vital evidence when pursuing a personal injury claim.
There are important steps you should take after an accident, including collecting evidence and notifying your insurance company. These steps are still necessary if a police officer does not come to the scene. In addition, it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced car accident lawyer who will assist you with the claims process.
If a police officer does not respond to your call, you should take the same steps that you would take if the officer did show up at the accident scene. In fact, every step that you take immediately following the accident becomes that much more important when there is no police officer present. Those steps include:
- Exchange information with the other driver. It is crucial that you exchange information with the other driver, including insurance information, driver’s license number, and contact information.
- Do not admit fault. Do not engage in conversation or apologize for your involvement in the accident, as this can be used against you as an admission of fault. If the other driver apologizes to you, write down what they said.
- Take pictures. Take pictures of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles, your injuries, skid marks on the road, and anything else that may help prove fault.
- Talk to witnesses. If there were witnesses who saw the accident happen, ask if they would be willing to provide a statement, and ask for their contact information as well.
- Notify insurance company. It is also important that you report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible so that you can initiate the claims process.
Why Would a Police Officer Fail to Respond to a Car Accident?
On any given day, police officers are called to respond to a range of incidents, including trespassing, disorderly conduct, domestic violence, and more. If you are involved in a minor fender bender and police are responding to a more serious crime, they may not respond to your accident. In fact, in a growing number of cities, police are no longer responding to fender benders because they are considered low-priority. Other times, extreme weather conditions may prevent a police officer from being able to respond to your call, particularly if the inclement weather has caused other, more serious car accidents.
If you were in an accident and a police officer does not come to the scene of the accident, it is important that you know what steps to take to ensure that your rights are protected.
Can I File My Own Police Report?
A police report is an official document that provides detailed information about an accident, including the date, time, and location of the crash, the names and contact information of the driver and the passengers, as well as the police officer’s name and badge number. Police reports are important because they often include information about which driver was at fault. However, if the police officer does not arrive at the accident scene, you can go to the nearest police station and request a police report, or you may be able to file a police report online.
If you are unsure about how to file a police report on your own, contact the non-emergency number at your local police station and someone will walk you through the process. This will ensure that you have an official record of the accident, which can help avoid delays with the claims process.
What are the Accident Reporting Requirements in Virginia?
All motorists are urged to review the laws surrounding car accidents in Virginia. According to the Virginia Code, there are duties that you must follow if you are involved in an accident, including the following:
- If you are involved in an accident that resulted in injuries, fatalities, or property damage, you must stop as close to the accident scene as possible without getting in the way of traffic. You must report the accident to state police or local law enforcement. You must also provide reasonable assistance to other motorists or passengers who may have been injured. If you do not take these steps, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours if you are over 16 years old.
- If you hit a parked car, mailbox, or any other form of unattended property, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours, and you must leave a note on the damaged property that includes your name and contact information. If you fail to take these steps after hitting unattended property, all other passengers who are over 16 years old have a duty to report the accident to police within 24 hours.
Do I Always Need to Call the Police After an Accident?
If you are unsure about whether or not you should call the police, particularly if the accident is minor and no one was injured, it is always better to call them. Even though you are not legally required to call the police in Virginia if the accident is a minor fender bender, there are important benefits to having a police officer present.
The officer will fill out a police report which will provide important evidence when filing a personal injury claim with your insurance company. Car accidents can be very stressful, and a police officer will be able to take statements from you and the other motorist, take official statements from witnesses who saw the accident, and discuss next steps with you and the other driver.
In addition, a police officer can help keep the peace when tensions are running high in the moments immediately following a car accident. Ultimately, while you are required to perform certain duties immediately following an accident, you are not legally obligated to contact the police if it is not warranted. However, you do need to report the accident to one of the individuals listed in the Virginia Code.
What Penalties Do I Face if I Do Not Report an Accident?
If you knowingly fail to report an accident or obey the specific laws in the Virginia Code, you may face harsh penalties, including the following:
- If you leave the scene of an accident that resulted in injuries, fatalities, or over $1,000 in property damage, this is considered a Class 5 felony, which means you may face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $2,500.
- If the accident caused less than $1,000 worth of property damage, failing to report the accident is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.
- If you are convicted of violating these laws, your driver’s license may be revoked for up to six months if the accident caused $500 or more in damages.
These penalties apply to all licensed drivers and passengers, as long as they are over 16 years old.
Virginia is one of the few states where you can be charged with a hit-and-run accident if you leave the scene of the collision.
Whether or not police arrive at the scene of the accident, it is highly recommended that you contact a skilled lawyer who can assist you with the claims process and address all of your questions and concerns.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Help Clients Navigate the Claims Process After Accidents
If you were involved in a car accident and police did not come to the scene, you are urged to contact our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. We will thoroughly review the details of the accident and walk you through every step of the claims process. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.