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Who Should You Contact After A Car Accident

Who Should You Contact After A Car Accident

State laws govern what reports must be filed after a car accident. Still, there are some general commonalities across most jurisdictions. In most situations, there are three entities with which an accident report should be filed:

  • local police
  • your insurance provider (and agent, if possible)
  • department of motor vehicles (DMV)

Police Report

If you are involved in an accident that results in personal injuries or property damage above a threshold (such as more than $500, depending on the jurisdiction), you are likely required to file an accident report with the police. The state's laws will set forth triggering events that make it necessary to file an accident or crash report with the police. It is possible that the information captured in the report can be provided by phone, fax, or Internet, if the jurisdiction is technology-driven. However, in some cases, it will be necessary to file an accident report in person at the police station. Often, an actual signature with an oath, affirmation, or other type of penalty of perjury clause is required, so this must usually be done in person.

Insurance Provider and Agent

Most automobile insurance providers mandate their insured parties immediately notify them of car accidents. The policy will set forth the actual time frame required. It is likely to be very short, such as hours or days. The repercussions for not meeting this requirement and its time line are steep and can result in no coverage. Failure to provide notification to the insurance company within the requisite period often translates into an automatic denial of coverage for any claims submitted. The notice requirements will be clearly spelled out in the insurance policy.

In its report, the insurer will want to gather certain information. The information the insurance company is after is what will assist with claims investigation. It may be that the insurer wants a recorded verbal statement from the insured. If that is the case, the insured may prefer to contact legal counsel prior to giving any statement to best protect the insured's rights and interests during that process. The insurance company may not be recording the statement to protect the insured's rights. Instead, it may be that the insurance company desires the information and its recorded format to deny coverage or a claim against the insured's interests. In the latter instance, the report or recorded statement will most certainly be used against the insured later in the claims or litigation process.

Department of Motor Vehicles

State DMVs in many jurisdictions maintain accident reports on file. Drivers in many states are required to submit them to the DMV. Failure to do so may result in suspension of a driver's license. It may be prudent to consult counsel prior to filing any written report with the DMV, as it may also be used in later claims or litigation processes.