Calling the Police After An Accident: The Basics
For a lot of people, it's more or less a foregone conclusion that if you're involved in an accident, you call the police. It's an automatic, hard-wired response, just like paying the bills at the beginning of the month or making your weekly trip to the grocery store.
But what happens when someone hits you and asks you not to call the police? What should you do when that guy or girl offers to pay you out of pocket for the damages? Are you doing yourself a disservice if you don't call the police or have a crash report made? The answer may surprise you.
When do I have to call the police after an accident?
North Carolina law dictates that you have to call the police after any accident that results in death, injury, or property damage. North Carolina General Statutes §§ 20-166 and -166.1 are pretty clear on that front.
Pretty broad scope, right? Any injury or any property damage, and you have to call the cops? When does that not require a call to the police? If that's what you're thinking, you're right! The takeaway is that unless someone gave you a love tap that resulted in absolutely no injury or property damage, not so much as a minute scratch on the bumper, you are required by law to notify the police.
When should I call the police after an accident?
Always! In case that wasn't clear and unambiguous enough, let's review: You should always, always, always call the police after a car accident. It is crucial that you call the police and have an incident report made after any accident, no matter how minor. Even if there's no damage and you feel fine, make the call. Even if the at-fault driver offers you cash to keep the insurance company out of it, make the call. Even if you're in a major hurry and you want to get out of there, make the call.
Why? Because documenting the accident early is essential to a successful claim. Let's say you get rear-ended in what feels like a very minor accident, and you feel completely fine. Let's say the guy or gal who hit you offers you $1,000.00 cash to call it even and continue on with your day. Let's say you're in a hurry and you take the money.
Now let's say that the next day you wake up with a sharp pain in your neck. You figure it's a pulled muscle and try to gut it out for the next couple days, but after the pain gets severe enough that you can't take it anymore, you go to the doctor and find out that you've got a herniated disc in your neck. You need surgery to fix it, and even that might not do the trick. You can bet that a thousand bucks isn't going to cover your medical bills.
Now you're confronted with the specter of opening a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company with no crash report to prove that the accident even happened. Not to mention, of course, that you might not even have the at-fault driver's insurance information to open the claim in the first place. Assuming that you can open the claim, do you really want to stake the fate and future of your good health on the assumption that the at-fault driver will own up to his or her role in causing the accident?
The crash report, though generally inadmissible in the courtroom, is the most important piece of evidence you have at the settlement stage. It proves that the accident happened, shows the mechanics of how the accident happened, lists important insurance information, and puts you on notice of any witnesses and how to get in touch with them.
Because the crash report is so important, and because you won't have a crash report to rely on unless the police respond to the scene of the accident, it is extremely important that you call the police after any accident; even when North Carolina law doesn't require you to do so.