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Motor Vehicle Collisions

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Nearly everyone is involved in a traffic collision during his or her lifetime. The driver of any vehicle involved in a collision is required to do the following, at a minimum, under most state laws:

  • stay at the scene;
  • render aid if other parties are injured;
  • give your name, address, license plate number and insurance information to the other drivers involved;
  • provide the name and address of the vehicle's owner, if the owner is not the driver; and
  • notify the police if the accident results in injuries or serious property damage.

Should I call the police if I am in an accident?

Because you will need a police report to give to your insurance company in the case of vehicle damage, you should always call the police.

What else should I do if I am in an accident?

If at all possible, get the names and address of all witnesses-they tend to disappear quickly. Take photographs if there is a camera in the car, or use the camera on your cell phone. It is common to be sued if the driver or passengers in the other vehicle are injured. Any information you can gather at the scene is invaluable.

TIP: If you are in an accident involving injuries, a warrant for your arrest can be issued if you leave the scene of the accident.

TIP: A collision with a bicycle or pedestrian is considered a motor vehicle accident.

Should I talk to the police officer at the scene of an accident?

Make no admissions of guilt, such as "I wasn't looking," "I was on my phone" or "The kids distracted me." Anything you say can be used against you and will be noted on the police report. However, you must cooperate with the officer, answer any questions truthfully and give her any documentation she needs to complete the report.

Why was I given a traffic ticket if it was an accident?

If the police officer determines you violated a traffic law, you will be given a ticket just as if you had been stopped. Do not pay the fine, as doing so acts as a plea of guilty, which may be used as evidence in a civil trial for damages. Instead, hire an attorney to fight the ticket for you or do so yourself.

Do I have to report a one-car accident?

Where only the driver's vehicle is in the accident and there is no resulting damage to another's property, some laws do not require you to stop and report the incident. However, a police report may be helpful in attempts to recoup repair expenses from your insurance company.

Someone hit my car while I was inside the grocery store. What should I do?

The driver who collides with a parked vehicle must attempt to find the owner or operator immediately. If the owner cannot be found, most state laws require a written notice with the name and address of the driver, along with the circumstances of the collision, be left in a conspicuous place on the unattended vehicle.