In Georgia, most drivers view it as standard practice to call 911 to report any auto accident they have been involved in. Such a 911 call will result in a police officer responding to the scene to investigate the crash and an ambulance will usually be dispatched as well if there are any possible injuries reported to the 911 operator.
However, questions that are often asked in seemingly minor crashes is whether you can file an insurance claim without having to call the police to the scene and how can a car accident attorney help.
Why is It Important to Call the Police After a Car Accident in Atlanta?
The only time you should even contemplate not calling the police is in the rare event that you do not believe the crash resulted in any injuries and damage to your vehicle appears to be less than $500, or you do not need to use your own auto insurance to cover any of your damages. However, we always recommend that everyone involved in a crash call the police, even if you do not believe you will file a car accident claim.
Why? Because having the police investigate the wreck and determine who was at fault gives you an independent and reliable third-party witness to who caused the accident. Without a report of this nature, you are left to explain how the accident occurred to the other driver’s insurance company on your own.
What if the other driver tells his or her insurance company a different story? The insurance company will almost always side with their insured. Then it becomes he said-she said situation.
In addition, the reason you do not want to call the police is not a good one either often times. We have seen many, many injury cases where the client felt fine at the scene of the crash only to learn days or weeks later that he or she was actually severely injured.
This is a very common occurrence because often the extent of injuries such as back/neck injuries or brain injuries cannot be determined at the scene when shock and adrenaline are running high. You don’t want to be in a situation where you learn days or weeks later that you actually suffered significant injuries and you do not have a police report explaining how the auto accident occurred and who was at fault.
You always want to err on the side of caution and have the police investigate the wreck and determine who was at fault. This will make it easier to reach a car accident insurance claim settlement.
Are There Consequences for Not Calling the Police After an Auto Accident?
Georgia law requires that most car wrecks be reported to the police as found in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273. This statute requires a person involved in a motor vehicle crash resulting in injury or death to any other person or damage to a vehicle to an apparent extent of $500 or more to report the crash to the local police by the quickest means of communication.
Failure to do so is punishable as a misdemeanor offense. Thus, in virtually all motor vehicle crashes, making a report to the police is mandatory.
How Failing to Call the Police Can Impact Your Injury Claim
If you do not know the identity of the other driver and are therefore having to make a claim on your own uninsured motorist insurance coverage, you must strictly comply with O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273 and report the crash to the police by the quickest means of communication. According to O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(c), if you fail to report the crash to the police as quickly as possible, your insurance company can deny your claim for uninsured motorist coverage.
Even a relatively brief delay of 4 to 5 days has been held to be insufficient to comply with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273. It does not matter if you have a good excuse for the delay or if the delay does not seem entirely unreasonable under the circumstances, Georgia courts have strictly construed these statutes to require a report to the police by the quickest means of communication as a condition precedent to the insurance company’s duty to provide uninsured motorist coverage.
In other words, if you do not first comply with your duty to make a report to the police as soon as possible, the insurance company has no legal duty to provide coverage on your uninsured motorist claim no matter how many years you have faithfully paid premiums on your policy. Thus, it is critical if you are the victim of a hit and run type crash to immediately report it to the police or have someone report it for you if you are injured and unable to do so yourself.
A report to the police in the event of a hit and run crash is critical for another reason as well. Georgia law requires that in order for you to recover under your uninsured motorist coverage following a hit and run crash where the identity of the other driver is unknown you have to be able to demonstrate that there was actual physical contact between the other driver’s vehicle and yours unless you have an eyewitness to corroborate your story.
That means if another driver ran you off of the road or did something to cause you to crash without striking your vehicle and fled the scene of the crash, you may not be able to recover even under your own uninsured motorist coverage if you do not have a witness to corroborate your story. This is one reason why it always makes sense to call the police in the case of a hit and run because they can use their investigative training to attempt to document any slight physical contact between your vehicle and the other vehicle with physical evidence such as paint transfer.
They can also investigate and try to recreate the crash to determine if your version of events is supported by any other evidence such as skid marks, debris, traffic cameras or nearby surveillance cameras, other witnesses, or the damage to your vehicle. Perhaps most importantly, they can try to track down the other vehicle and driver so that you can make a claim on their insurance without having to utilize your own insurance coverage that may not be required to cover your claim.
Protect Yourself—always Call the Police After an Auto Accident in Atlanta
The bottom line is in truly rare instances it is possible to make a car accident injury claim without having a police report. But the better practice by far even in minor crashes is to call the police and have a report generated because you just never know what may happen down the road. Having a police report can make the insurance claim process for car accidents much easier. Do not feel guilty that the other driver may be given a traffic ticket. That decision is up to the police officer, and plenty of times the officer may decide not to issue a ticket if the damage is minor and the driver is cooperative.
In many other cases, if insurance takes care of all of the bills, a ticket may be dismissed once it gets to court. So you cannot worry about what may happen to the other driver if you call the police. Be more concerned about the problems we have touched on here that you may run into if you do not call the police to investigate and make a report about your crash.
Let Spaulding Injury Law Answer Your Questions About the Auto Insurance Claim Process
Our Georgia car accident lawyers have drafted numerous articles and blog posts on various auto accident topics in an effort to provide information to consumers’ trying to get answers to basic questions after a wreck. Please feel free to review our car accident topics on our the Learning Center page of our website.
Also, if you cannot find the answer to your specific question on our site or you simply want to speak to an experienced lawyer about your situation, do not hesitate to give us a call. You can speak to one of our Atlanta personal injury attorneys for free.