After a car accident, there may be a handful of reasons why you don’t report the accident to the police. For example, perhaps you don’t think that your injuries are serious.
Or, maybe the other driver promises to pay you for your injuries out-of-pocket, and begs you to not call the police. Or maybe you don’t have insurance yourself, or are worried about being found at fault for the crash.
Whatever the reason, however legitimate, filing a car insurance claim for damages without a police report is incredibly challenging.
At MG Law, our Atlanta car accident lawyers urge all of our clients to always file a car accident report as soon as possible after a crash. Here’s an overview of why doing so is important and what it may mean for your case if you fail to report your accident to the police.
Your Duty to Report a Car Accident in Georgia
There are many reasons why you should report a car accident to the police, beginning with the fact that the law compels you to do so. As found in Georgia Code Section 40-6-273, a driver of a vehicle that is involved in an accident that seemingly results in death, any injury, or property damages of $500 or more must, “by the quickest means of communication,” report the accident. As such, other than very minor fender-benders where there are no injuries or damages, you have a legal duty to report a car accident.
The Importance of Reporting a Car Accident
Reporting a car accident isn’t just important because it’s the legal thing to do, but also because it is important for your claim. Here’s why reporting a car accident is so important:
- A car accident report contains information about evidence. One of the most important reasons to report your car accident to the police is that the officer who arrives on the scene will note any important evidence and facts about the case within the police report. In some cases, a police department may even sound out an accident investigation team, whose responsibility it is to make a determination about fault. Evidence such as the officers’ opinions, information about the other vehicle and driver, eyewitnesses’ names and testimonies, when and where the accident occurred, and more will all be included in the police report. This information will be essential later, whether you are trying to prove fault or want to get in touch with an eyewitness.
- A car accident report creates a link between the accident and your damages. Very importantly, a car accident reports help to establish the element of causation in a car accident claim – that is, evidence that your injuries and damages would not have occurred but for the car accident. If there is no record of the car accident ever occurring because you never reported the accident to the police, the insurance company will probably question whether or not the source of your injuries and damages is the car accident that you’re claiming it to be. Having proof of the accident via a police report can satisfy this element in large part and reduce legal hurdles.
- An insurance company will request a copy of an accident report before settling a claim. Finally, regardless of what other evidence you have or how strong your case is, if you don’t have a police report, your insurance company may not take the time to review your claim at all, let alone offer you a settlement. This may be part of the insurance company’s policy.
What Happens if I Don’t Report a Car Accident?
If you don’t report a car accident in Georgia, there could be consequences. These consequences could have long-term effects.
In terms of breaking the law–remember, reporting a car accident to the police is a legal requirement in Georgia–you could be charged with failure to report or leaving the scene of an accident in some cases. This could lead to points on your record and a large fine.
Perhaps more seriously, though, not having an accident report from the police department could greatly undermine your ability to recover compensation for your damages. If you have been seriously injured and have medical bills, bills for vehicle repairs, and have suffered lost wages and other economic or noneconomic losses, not getting compensated for this harm could be financially damaging. In some cases, the damages sustained during a car accident are enough to push some people into bankruptcy if they are unable to recover a fair compensation award. It is strongly recommended that you report your car accident to the police.
Can I Still File a Claim without a Police Report?
It may still be possible to file a claim without a police report. In a personal injury claim, for example, you need to prove that the other party owed you a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached, that the breach of the duty of care was the proximate cause of your injuries, and that you’ve suffered damages. Depending on the amount of evidence that exists, you may still be able to prove these four elements.
Without a police report, there is additional work that you will need to do in order to prove that the accident happened, prove the fault of the other party, and prove that your damages are connected to the crash. This is something an experienced car accident attorney may be able to help with by investigating your case, tracking down witnesses, bringing in accident reconstruction experts, and more.
Call the Office of MG Law Today
If you have been in a car crash and you didn’t report the accident to the police, you should reach out to an experienced car accident attorney at the office of MG Law as soon as possible to discuss your case and your options.
Our lawyers know that cases like these deserve a unique level of attention and dedication, and we are up to the job. Reach out to us online or call (770) 988-5252 to schedule your free consultation today.