San Jose Police Report Will No Longer Respond to Non Injury Auto Accidents

The San Jose Police Department recently announced that it will no longer come to the scene of a non-injury car accident. The department is facing large budget cuts and will not be doing accident investigations for these types of car crashes. As an Oakland personal injury lawyer, I have seen this trend for years. The cities of Oakland and San Francsico frequently will not respond to non-injury automobile accidents either. So the question becomes what should you do to protect yourself if you have been involved in a traffic accident and the police will not respond?

The following are some tips to follow if you have been involved in an accident where the police will not investigate.

Photos, Photos, Photos
: Many people today have digital cameras on their phone. It’s important to document a scene after an accident occurs. Therefore, if you can, take pictures of the cars where they came to rest after the collision. This will help reconstruct the accident if there is any conflict between the parties as to how the accident occurred. It’s also important to photograph skid marks. The length of the skid mark can later be used to determine the speed of the vehicle at the point of braking. If there is debris on the ground, such as broken headlights, taillights, or other car parts, these should be photographed as well. These photos can be used to establish the point of impact which again can be useful in determining fault in the accident.

Personal Information: Get as much information as you can from the other person(s). At a minimum you should have their name, address, home telephone, work telephone, driver’s license number, and car license number. Again if you have a camera phone, a simple way to capture this information is to photograph the other person’s driver’s license, confirming with the other person that the information is current. Additionally, getting the person’s employment information is important as well. All of this information is useful, because if you cannot resolve your claim with the insurance company, you may have to sue the individual. If you are going to sue for damages related to your auto accident, you will need to know the location of the person who hit you so you can have the complaint properly served on them. People move frequently, so that’s why it’s good practice to have their employment information as well.

Insurance information:
The law requires that a person carry proof of insurance with them while driving their car. The proof is generally on a small card or piece of paper which has been prepared by the insurance company. You need to get the name of the insurance company and the policy number. The proof of insurance will also have the dates of coverage. You want to make sure that the policy was in effect at the time of the accident.

Witness information: If there are independent witnesses, you should get their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. If there is any dispute as to who is at fault for the accident, the insurance companies, and for that matter, judges and juries put great weight on independent witnesses. Don’t assume that just because the other person admits fault at the scene of the accident, that you don’t need the names of witnesses. It is not uncommon for parties to change their minds about what they believe happened after an accident. If this is the case, an independent witness will be very valuable in helping determine the truth about the actual facts of the accident.

Frequently, people suffer personal injuries at the scenes of accidents but do not feel it immediately. There are several reasons for this. Adrenaline rush may mask symptoms initially. Also, it takes time for inflammation to develop. That is why people who suffer a neck or low back sprain often do not feel the symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and loss of motion for several hours following a collision.

If you follow the above steps following an accident, you will have obtained all of the information that a police officer usually gets when making a report. If it later turns out that you are injured and need to file a personal injury claim, or the other person changes their version of how the collision occurred, then your rights will be protected. For further information following an accident, read “ Eight Common Mistakes That Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars When Dealing with Insurance Adjusters.”

Cash Strapped San Jose Police Won’t Respond to Low-Priority Calls, CBS San Francisco, August 17, 2011

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