Have you ever been involved in a minor car accident? Did the police respond? Were you able to obtain a police report to provide to your insurance company? Did the police report help in finding who was at fault? The days of the local police responding to a minor accident may soon be coming to an end, and the determination of who caused the accident may no longer be based on what really happened but on what YOU can prove. Read below for 3 things that may help you if you find yourself in this situation.
Picture this in your mind. I am a visitor in the great city of Arlington, TX. I am driving south on a major street and I am headed towards Interstate Highway 20. There are primarily 4 lanes on this street, 2 lanes going north and 2 lanes going south. There is a median that divides the north and south bound lanes. As I pass a huge company on my left, the street begins to widen to three lanes as I am approaching a crossover area in the media. The new lane is on my left and is a turning lane. The turning lane ends where the crossover area begins.
The crossover area permits 4 things: for vehicles to make a u-turn from either the northbound or southbound lanes on to the opposite side of the street, for northbound vehicles to make a left turn and cross over the southbound lanes onto the intersecting street on my right, for southbound vehicles to make a left and crossover the northbound lanes and into the entrance of the company on my left, or lastly for vehicles who are exiting the company to gain access to the southbound lanes or proceed over the southbound lanes onto the intersecting street on my right.
In my case, the driver of the other car was exiting the company on my left and had already crossed over the northbound lanes. As I proceeded south, in what became the center lane due to the addition of the turning lane, approaching the crossover area; the driver of the other car darted out in front of me. I did not have enough time to fully stop my car in order to avoid hitting her car. The front right driver’s side of my car impacted her front and rear passenger side doors. By the time she brought her car to a stop, she was west of the stop sign on the intersecting street on my right. Thankfully, I was not traveling at a high rate of speed as traffic ahead of me was moving slowly due to a traffic light up ahead. Because I was traveling at a lower speed, my airbags did not deploy upon impact and even better there were no injuries.
My car came to rest in the right lane of the street. In order to prevent another accident, I moved my car and followed the other driver into the gas station. No witnesses stopped to ask if we were okay. The other driver exited her car and apologized. I called the local police department and informed them that I had just been involved in a car accident and I provided the location. To my shock and dismay, the conversation went like this:
Dispatcher: Are there any injuries?
Me: No ma’am
Dispatcher: Did the airbags deploy?
Me: No ma’am
Dispatcher: It is the policy of Arlington Police Department that we do not respond to minor accidents.
The driver of the other vehicle, who resided in Arlington, commented “That is what I don’t like about Arlington Police department, they do not respond to accidents”. The other driver was nice, she provided her name and we exchanged phone numbers. She provided her insurance card. She even volunteered that she worked at the huge company that was on the main street. She was leaving work when the accident occurred. We both took pictures of the damages to the cars. Even though the other driver was apologetic and nice, I still had a horrible feeling that not having a police report was not going to result in a good outcome for me. As you can guess, I was right.
I immediately called the other driver’s insurance company and reported the accident. I explained my perception of what happened. I was told they had to get in touch with their insured to get their side of the story. For about a week, I kept in contact with the other driver’s insurance company and was told they could not get their insured to respond. They asked if I had a police report and of course I had to tell them no. I provided the pictures that I had taken and was told that pictures really didn’t prove anything.
Needless to say, I ended up filing with my own insurance company in order to get my vehicle repaired. The other driver’s insurance company determined that I did not yield the right of way to their insured. In other words, if you are traveling on a major street, you are supposed to stop in the middle of the street and allow the other car access. You are supposed to do this even though you do not have a yield sign, a stop sign, or a traffic light instructing you to do so.
THE OTHER DRIVER’S INSURANCE COMPANY IS NOT YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
One of the most important things to understand, if this situation happens to you, is the other driver’s insurance company is going to act in the best interest of their insured. Their insured is the one paying the premiums to them. If their insured does not respond or refuses to cooperate, the only action the insurance company will take is to send them a letter that states they can be dropped as an insured as a result of their non-cooperation. If the other driver still refuses to respond, there is nothing that you can do.
If the insured does respond, the other driver’s insurance company is going to believe their insured’s version of how the accident occurred, especially if you are not able to provide proof to support your version. Your only recourse will be to file a claim with your own insurance company and let your insurance company argue on your behalf. This means that you will have to pay your own deductible and risk your insurance company increasing your premiums because you filed a claim, even though the accident may not have been your fault.
ALWAYS TAKE PICTURES OR A RECORD A VIDEO
Although I took pictures of the damages to the other driver’s vehicle and my vehicle, it was not enough. I now know to call the police first and then take pictures or record a video of the scene of the accident prior to the cars being moved from the scene. Record a 360 degree video or take pictures of your full surroundings, including any street signs or landmarks and the way the cars are positioned. This will help in proving location and give better insight as to how the accident may have happened.
Without any photos or a video, it becomes your word against the other driver’s word, especially if no witnesses step up or the police does not respond. It is suggested that you take the photos or record a video before moving the vehicles, even if the police are going to response. The photos or video will only strengthen your case, even if the police responds and writes up a police report.
VEHICLE SAFETY FEATURES/ EVENT DATA RECORDER
My vehicle is equipped with a feature that is similar to Onstar. I contacted my provider to see if they were able to provide any recordings of the accident. Unfortunately, they did not detect the accident because the airbags did not deploy. I felt somewhat silly when the customer service rep asked me “if I manually pressed the button when the accident occurred?”. Of course, I didn’t. I didn’t know that I was supposed to. I learned that I should have pressed the button when the accident occurred. My provider would have contacted the police on my behalf and then would have started recording from the time that I pressed the button. If your airbags deploy, this feature should automatically engage.
Most vehicles are equipped with event data recorders. These recorders are similar to the black boxes that are installed on airplanes. As the name indicates, event data recorders record the events that occur with your vehicle. They can provide the speed that you were traveling, whether you hit your brakes, and possibly the GPS location of the area the accident occurred. I contacted the manufacturer of my vehicle to request information from the event data recorder installed in my car. I learned that there is one main company that can extract the information from the recorder and the service can cost nearly $2000.00. My insurance company said that I would have to incur the costs on my own and have the information sent to them.
As you can see, this was a most enlightening experience for me. Hopefully, what I learned will help you if you happen to find yourself in a similar situation. What are some other actions that drivers should take if they are involved in a minor accident?
Photography: Courtesy of Brodie Vissers