Getting in a car accident can be kind of a big deal. Things can get very serious, very quickly. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crash and the lives of the people involved, it might be tempting to avoid reporting an accident to the police.
Most car accidents are required to be reported promptly to law enforcement in Georgia. Even in situations where a report is not necessary, the product of gathering and recording information after an accident can prove very useful at a later date.
The car accident attorney at the Georgia law firm of Barrios & Virguez recommends always reporting accidents to show good faith compliance with the law, to be sure critical evidence is collected, and so an objective account of the events gets recorded.
Do You Always Have to Report a Car Accident?
There may be rare instances where an accident is not required to be reported in Georgia but considering the cost of vehicle repairs, even minor property damage could be $500 worth of repairs and require a police report.
Georgia law requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident to notify the appropriate local police ‘immediately’ and ‘by the quickest means of communication if an accident results in any of the following circumstances:
- Injury to any person
- Death of any person
- Apparent property damage of $500
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Why Would Someone Choose Not to Report a Car Accident?
The drivers who are involved in accidents and choose not to report them or leave the scene so someone else cannot report their involvement are most likely afraid of some additional negative consequences.
- Maybe a driver had been drinking.
- Maybe a driver had a suspended license.
- Maybe a driver feared insurance premium increases if he got any more tickets.
- Maybe a driver was coming from somewhere she never should have been.
However, in choosing not to obey the law after an accident, a person may have done more harm than what they sought to avoid. Valuable evidence may have been lost, and more legal troubles may lie ahead for those who leave an accident scene.
A Georgia car accident lawyer from Barrios & Virguez relies on information in a police report to help build a successful claim on behalf of each personal injury client.
What Can Happen if You Don’t Report a Car Accident?
Failing to report a car accident when legally required to do so can result in problems with insurance companies and criminal penalties. Insurance companies often rely on police reports to help determine coverage and compensation amounts. Not having a police report can make insurance claims harder to prove.
There are criminal penalties that apply to drivers who crash into other cars and leave the scene without identifying themselves to the other involved persons. The penalties for leaving an accident scene depend on how serious the injuries and damage to persons and property were.
Georgia’s hit-and-run laws require a driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of another person or property damage to a vehicle attended by a person to stop as quickly as possible and do all of the following:
- Provide name, address, and vehicle registration
- Display driver’s license if requested
- Give reasonable assistance to anyone injured
- Make a reasonable effort to secure emergency medical services and contact law enforcement for serious injuries
Leaving the scene of a car accident with minor injuries or property damage is a misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and as much as a year in jail. Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious injuries or death carries a prison term of 1 to 5 years. Hit-and-run drivers may also face license suspensions.
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Should I Report a Car Accident Even if I Don’t Have To?
There may be times when an accident involves only property damage and police choose not to respond, or the damage is less than $500, and reporting is not necessary. In those instances, it still may be a good idea to complete a report and make a record for possible later use.
In Georgia, persons involved in accidents where there is no police response can complete a Personal Report of Accident form. The completed form is for personal use and is not filed like an official police report. But the form is designed to capture information about the accident that can be useful when making a claim against an insurance company or in a personal injury lawsuit.
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How Does Not Reporting a Car Accident Affect a Personal Injury Case?
Failing to report an accident does not preclude an injured person from making a personal injury claim, but it can make it harder to prove both the injuries and the damage. The information contained in an accident report can be used to make early decisions about a claim and identify potential issues.
When there is disagreement about the cause of an accident, a police officer’s notes and opinion can be persuasive evidence of how the accident happened and who did what. A police report will contain information about the damage to the vehicles and any injuries that are reported or observed at the scene.
Although generally considered reliable due to police training and experience, the conclusions of a reporting officer are not accepted as absolutely true and can be challenged by an insurance company or a car accident lawyer in Georgia.
Where to Get the Help You Need After a Duluth, GA Car Accident
Calling the police is not only legally required when someone gets injured in a car accident, but it is also a good way to have important accident information recorded that can prove very useful when making a claim for personal injuries.
Barrios & Virguez is a client-centered personal injury law firm with offices in Duluth and Augusta. If you have been injured in Georgia and need a car accident attorney, become another satisfied client and contact Barrios & Virguez today to find out how they can help.