Georgia law requires that motorists report most car accidents that occur in the state. There are serious penalties if a motorist fails to comply, so care and attention are required if you end up in a wreck. Police reports often serve as the foundation of any personal liability claim, so this is another incentive for filing a report. Contact an accident lawyer at MG Law if you need help obtaining compensation.
When to File a Police Report
According to Georgia Code §40-6-273, a motorist must file a report if they get into a crash that results in:
- Bodily injury
- At least $500 in property damage
Death and bodily injury are easy to observe, but what about $500 in damage? Some states have much higher thresholds (such as $2,000), but $500 represents not a lot of damage. One warped car door or a torn fender should easily cost more than $500 to fix, so the safe choice is to always report an accident if you can see any damage to any of the vehicles involved.
How to File a Police Report
The primary way to ensure a police report is filed is to call local police whenever you are involved in an accident. The police will then decide whether they should send an officer out to the scene.
Given the COVID crisis, many police departments in Georgia are declining to send officers unless a person has suffered a bodily injury or died. Officers aren’t coming out for a property-damage-only car crash. Still, you should call and report any accident—leave it up to the police to decide whether they are coming out.
If an officer responds, then he or she should file a crash report. You can also fill out a Personal Report of Accident, which is for only your records.
The police, however, might not come out. Instead, they might tell you to fill out an Accident Report, which you can find online. The report will ask for the following information:
- Your vehicle year, make, and type
- Your name, address, and date of birth
- Your driver’s license number
- The name and license number of the vehicle’s owner (if not you)
- Similar information for all vehicles and drivers involved in the wreck
- Any other property damage (other than damage to vehicles)
- A short description of what happened
You should keep a copy for your records and send the original form to the address provided. You should complete this form as soon as possible following the accident.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Accident
It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident in Georgia. Instead, Georgia law requires that motorists immediately stop and report the accident to the local police. Motorists should also swap personal information with all other drivers involved and obtain emergency medical care for the injured, such as by calling an ambulance or taking someone to the hospital.
If no one was injured, the driver should still swap information. And if a vehicle is unattended, then the driver should find the owner and notify them of the wreck. If the owner can’t be found, then the driver should leave their name and contact information in a conspicuous place so the owner will know who struck their unattended car.
The penalties for fleeing the scene of an accident will depend on whether a person was injured or if the crash only caused property damage:
- If someone was seriously injured or killed, then failure to stop immediately and render assistance is a felony. A defendant can be sentenced to 1-5 years in prison.
- If the accident caused only a minor bodily injury or property damage, then a defendant can be charged with a misdemeanor and be sentenced to up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. A second or subsequent conviction, even for a property-only damage accident, will result in stiffer penalties.
Remember, these penalties are only for leaving the scene of the accident. A driver might face additional penalties for getting into the accident in the first place, such as driving while intoxicated or driving recklessly.
Police Reports & Personal Injury Lawsuits
These reports serve a useful function in a car accident case. They can establish who was involved in the crash and the date, time, and location of the wreck. Admittedly, you can use other evidence to establish these facts, but the police report is an easy way to do so.
The police report also helps your attorney begin to investigate a wreck. We can use them to identify helpful witnesses who might have seen the accident. We can also visit the scene of the wreck to determine whether some environmental hazard (like a pothole) contributed to the crash.
Some police officers assign fault in their police reports. Don’t panic if the office pins blame on you. The officer did not see the crash, and their opinion is not given any weight in a lawsuit or insurance claim.
Reporting the Accident to Your Insurer
Your insurance company will want to know if you called the police. Share whatever information you have with them. They will probably want to get a copy of the police report to assist with their investigation.
Some people are afraid to report accidents to their insurers because they fear that their insurance premiums will increase. However, insurers are liable to uncover the fact that you were involved in an accident in other ways, so it is futile to try and hide it. For example, the other driver might make a claim on your policy. Or the police could see that you were sued in court records. Failure to report an accident probably violates a provision of your insurance contract, and your insurer might cancel your policy for that reason.
Call MG Law Today
Car accidents are confusing events. But there are obvious steps victims should take. First, call the police. Second, call us. We have experienced lawyers who can represent you in settlement negotiations and possibly even file a lawsuit in court. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.