If you’ve ever been in a car accident in Fall River, New Bedford, or the surrounding area, then your insurance company more than likely asked you for a copy of the accident report filed with the police.
That police report serves as a staple item for assessing damage and attributing blame for an accident. But what happens if that police report is never completed? Worse yet, what if the police never came to the scene of an accident?
Despite popular belief, there is no set law in Massachusetts requiring police officers to go to the scene of every accident. In our experience, most officers come when called. However, it certainly depends on a variety of criteria, including:
- Small towns are far more likely to have officers go to most (if not all) accident incidents
- If there is an injury, then the police will come, with an ambulance
- If there is extensive damage done, then the police will more than likely come
If, however, the accident is minimal, and traffic isn’t prohibited, then there’s a good chance the police will choose not to come, and there’s little you can do about it. It very well may come down to the fact that departments such as Fall River, New Bedford and Attleboro don’t want to tie up their minimal resources on a matter that doesn’t affect public safety, in case an emergency does arise.
What do I do, then, if the police don’t arrive on the accident scene?
As mentioned before, insurance companies throughout Southeastern Massachusetts rely on these police reports in order to determine the truth of what caused an accident. However, if the police refuse to come, you can still protect yourself legally:
- Take photographs of the incident, and note the time of the accident.
- Write down all pertinent information from the other driver, including name, address, license plate number, insurance company/policy etc.
- Take down the information of any eyewitnesses.
- Call your attorney. Your attorney might be able to send someone to also record the incident.
- Contact your insurance company. We recommend you call your attorney first, however, your insurance company should be contacted as well. Let them know the police refuse to come, however, at this time, don’t go into too much detail regarding the accident. Wait for your attorney to handle that.
When the police come but no accident report is filed.
There are times when a police officer will arrive at the scene of an accident, yet a police report is still not filed. That’s because the officer did not deem a report necessary, and opted, instead, to have you fill out some exchange of information form.
In this instance, again, there’s little you can do. The officer isn’t required to fill out this form. Of course you may ask for the form to be filled out; however, officers are under no mandate to complete forms just for the sole purpose of helping others gain (or avoid) compensation for an accident.
Our advice is that if you are ever involved in an accident, be prepared to follow the 5 steps outlined above, even if an officer arrives. It’s better to be diligent and over-prepared than stuck with the blame for an accident that wasn’t your fault, or struggling to get the compensation you deserve.