You may feel dazed, shocked, and frightened in the aftermath of a car accident. This mixture of emotions can make it difficult to think straight. However, it’s important to take certain steps at the accident scene, especially if you weren’t at fault for the collision. Doing so will help if you file a claim or lawsuit in the future.
One of the best things you can do is call the police to report the crash. We explain why below.
Should I Call the Police After a Car Accident in California?
You should call the local police or California Highway Patrol (CHP) if any of the following apply to your car accident:
- Someone was injured or killed
- The other driver is intoxicated (DUI)
- The other driver fled the accident scene (hit-and-run)
- The other driver is driving without a license or refuses to exchange information
- You struck an animal and injured or killed it
- You struck a parked vehicle or other property and cannot locate the owner
Under California law, you’re not always required to notify the authorities of a collision. However, it’s best to call 911 after any car accident, even if you think it’s minor.
Police may not always be dispatched, but if they are, they’ll provide an objective account of the accident scene and complete a traffic collision report.
What Will Police Officers Do At the Accident Scene?
Police officers conduct many vital functions at the scene of a car accident.
Speak To the Drivers and Witnesses
The dispatched law enforcement officer will talk to everyone involved in the collision, including the drivers, vehicle occupants, and eyewitnesses. They might ask for names, contact information, identification, insurance, registrations, and other relevant information.
They’ll also want to get everyone’s version of events to see if they align or if further investigation is required.
Secure and Document the Accident Scene
The police will also try to ensure everyone’s safety at the scene. If you haven’t already moved your vehicle off the road, the police will help each driver safely maneuver to a safer location, such as the shoulder.
Once they’ve secured the scene, the cops will gather evidence. They might take photos and videos. They’ll also complete a traffic collision report containing diagrams of the location of the vehicles and details regarding property damage, injuries, the drivers involved, and other pertinent information related to the crash.
Make Preliminary Determinations of Fault
Part of the police officers’ investigation will be directed at determining who caused the accident. For example, if responsibility is clear, the officer may issue a traffic citation to the at-fault driver. This information will be noted in the police report.
Law enforcement officials are also able to detect whether someone has been driving under the influence. If they sense that a driver has consumed alcohol or drugs, they may conduct a field sobriety test and arrest someone for a DUI. This will also be included in the police report and will be helpful if you need to file a claim against a drunk driver who caused an accident.
Other Miscellaneous Tasks
Cops will also facilitate the cleanup of an accident scene. Often, there are glass shards, pieces of plastic, shredded tires, and other debris in the aftermath of a crash. If left on the roads, they could lead to other collisions. A police officer will ensure that these items are cleared.
Additionally, the police are there to provide assistance to anyone involved in the accident. They may comfort children or people who are shaken up, or they may have to notify family members that their loved one was injured in a wreck.
The police may also have to help other emergency medical providers rescue someone who’s trapped in a vehicle or render aid to people if other first responders haven’t yet arrived.
As you can see, a police officer has many duties and can help in many ways after a car accident. They can be a valuable resource for you, so it’s important to call 911 to report a collision and receive assistance.
Contact a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer for Help After a Collision
While police reports can be beneficial evidence in a car accident claim, legal representation will be your best asset. A Los Angeles car accident attorney will help you receive the best possible outcome in your case.
They’ll help you gather evidence proving every element of your claim, calculate the full extent of your losses, and represent you in negotiations against insurance companies and others. Most offer free consultations, so contact a car accident lawyer today to discuss your collision.