Should I Call the Police?
One of the most common questions we get in the office regarding automobile accidents is, “Should I call the police?”
The answer is simple: Absolutely.
The police can easily come to the scene of the accident. They will record all parties’ vehicle, driver and insurance information and take statements to determine which party is at fault in the accident. In South Carolina, all of this information goes on a form called an FR-10 that is submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicle and assists your insurance agent in filing any claims for damages resulting from the accident.
We see it all the time here in our West Columbia office: You back into another car in a Lexington parking lot or an impatient driver taps your bumper in 5 o’clock traffic on I-20 in Columbia. There are no injuries and minimal damage to both cars, so you exchange insurance information with the other driver and go on your way without calling the police. Later that day, the other driver calls into our office to file a claim against your insurance, saying you hit them and they have gone to the hospital for treatment of neck and back pain.
Without a police report, it is their word against yours and little your insurance agent can do to protect you from the claim against your policy.
Here is a quick list of what you should do after any accident (even a minor one):
- If you are able to do so, move to the side of the road to prevent further incident. Turn on your hazard lights.
- Contact the police. If you are unable to do it, ask someone else to do it for you.
- If anyone is injured, call an ambulance.
- Be courteous, ask if the other party needs medical attention, and wait for the police to arrive. Do not make a statement regarding the accident to anyone except the reporting officer.
- Get the officer’s name, department, and badge number.
- Do not accept responsibility or apologize to the other party.
- Determine if there are any witnesses to the incident that are willing to make a statement on your behalf, and get their name and phone number.
- If you are on the job or in a company vehicle, report the incident as soon as possible to your supervisor.
- Collect your copy of the police report (an FR-10 in South Carolina) from the police officer.
- Take pictures, if you can safely do so, of the accident scene and any property damage.
- Contact your insurance agent after the accident. They can help you submit the FR-10 to the DMV as required by South Carolina law and discuss any possible claims with you.