What do I tell the police when I am in a car accident?

by Timothy B. Heather, Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

If you are in a car accident, cooperate with the police, making sure to provide your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance card.  Try to avoid discussing what happened with anyone other than the police.  Limit your discussions to only setting forth the facts and do not make accusations and do not admit that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.  There may be some unknown factors which played a role in the accident which could make the liability situation different than what you initially perceive it to be.

Don’t assume that the responding law enforcement officer will compile a thorough and complete report and interview all witnesses.  Frequently, they don’t.  Get the names, telephone numbers and addresses of all drivers, passengers and witnesses involved in the accident.  Obtain license plate numbers and driver’s license numbers, the names of the insurance companies of all drivers involved, the registered owners of all cars, the year, make and model of all cars, and the names and badge numbers of all law enforcement officers and medical emergency personnel. 

You should also write a detailed description of how the accident occurred which you can rely on later if you forget any of the facts.  Include a map of the accident scene showing the direction of the vehicles before the accident and the positions where they came to rest.  If you have a camera, take pictures of the accident scene, vehicles and people.  If you don’t, as soon as possible after the accident, return to the scene to properly record all physical evidence, some of which will soon disappear such as vehicle debris and skid marks.

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