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How Should I Describe The Car Accident To The Police?

Police officer taking notes

What you say to the authorities can impact the outcome of any legal issue, including a car wreck. The police accident report might help you get a fair settlement, complicate the case or reduce your possible compensation. Discover what you should and shouldn’t say when describing a car accident to the police.

Do You Even Have To Call the Police?

Under Texas law, a party to a collision must report the incident under specific circumstances. One situation where calling the police is mandatory is if the accident involves property damage that makes a vehicle inoperable.

Additionally, the parties to a crash must notify the police if a serious injury or death occurs. The other conditions for calling the police are when you suspect one of the drivers is under the influence. If an involved driver has no insurance or a driver leaves the scene, the other parties should contact law enforcement.

The law mandates that a person who must contact the police about an accident should do so by the quickest means of communication, which generally means calling 911. If you write a letter or message to the police some other way, law enforcement may claim that you violated the law.

However, you might not need to call the authorities in a car accident with minimal damage or injuries. For these less significant accidents, you must report the event to the Texas Department of Transportation within 10 days if any minor injuries occurred or the property damage was more than $1,000. If you are unsure how serious the accident is, call emergency services to advise whether you should wait for officers to arrive.

What Should You Say to the 911 Operator?

Your 911 call is your first point of contact with the police. You only need to explain the current scene, including apparent property damage, injuries and how the incident is affecting traffic. Describe the situation calmly and factually to the operator. Avoid speculating about why the accident happened or who is at fault.

The operator does not determine guilt, but what you say can become part of the official record. Someone may be able to use an innocent misstatement against you, so you should be cautious about what you say to anyone not representing your case.

When the operator asks if you are okay, avoid making definitive statements about your condition. A jarring impact may be enough to cause hidden physical damage that surfaces days later.

In many cases, a medical examination after an accident is a wise decision. Even if you wish to take yourself to the hospital, you may be better off telling the operator that you aren’t sure of your condition instead of asserting you feel fine.

How Should You Gather Evidence and Prepare What To Say to Officers?

While you wait for the police to arrive, collect as many details as possible at the scene if you physically can. Take photos and videos of the damage and exchange contact and insurance information with the other parties. Try to obtain statements from any witnesses and their contact information as well.

Make personal notes about how the accident played out as you remember it. Trim the story down to its essential elements to share with the police. Don’t worry about going into excessive detail. It’s easy to feel confused in the aftermath, and the other party or insurance company may try to use anything that seems contradictory against you later.

What Do You Say To The Police?

When the police arrive, an officer will take charge and provide instructions on what everyone should do. Unless you require immediate medical attention, you should remain at the location until the officer releases you.

Even if you believe you know what happened or think you have proof of who caused the accident, you should discuss the issue carefully. You do not need to admit to any fault. You might genuinely believe that you caused the accident, but other circumstances regarding the function of your vehicle or road conditions might mean you are innocent.

If the situation with the officer becomes tense for any reason, remain cooperative. Do not overly concern yourself with who the officer lists as at fault or if the officer issues you a citation. However, you may politely decline to answer questions you would rather address in the presence of a lawyer.

Remember that the police report is only the initial documentation and does not make the final determination of guilt. You can fight any discrepancies later. The assistance of a legal professional can ensure that your story remains consistent and doesn’t compromise your chances of receiving fair compensation.

What Do You Say in a Written Report for a Minor Accident?

The police usually do not come to minor accidents, so you must prepare a statement for their records. As with speaking to the officer in person, you should stick to the facts and avoid admitting guilt. You have 10 days to submit the report to the TxDOT, giving you time to consult an attorney for assistance.

You must list the time and location of the accident as well as the information for all involved motorists. Provide each driver’s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Birth dates
  • License plate number
  • Driver’s license number

Remember that the drivers may not be the vehicle owners. You also should provide the names and addresses of the vehicle owners and their insurance companies. Finally, summarize the events, weather and road conditions.

Do You Need To Talk To Insurance Companies?

You also need to alert your insurance company relatively soon after the accident. The insurers will access the police report later, so you do not need to provide extensive information.

Stick to the elementary facts of the event, such as the location, time and involved vehicles. All insurance companies want to minimize payouts, so you need to refrain from saying anything that can harm your claim.

You do not have a duty to speak to the other driver’s insurer, so be careful not to offer an official statement to the other party’s insurance company. You can hire a car accident lawyer to communicate with insurers to protect you from someone misrepresenting your words.

How Do You Review the Police Report?

Police are trained professionals, but they can still make mistakes. A seemingly small error can make an innocent motorist appear at fault. For example, in one line of the report, the officer may mislabel the vehicles or the time.

You can obtain a copy of the report through the Texas Department of Transportation Crash Report Online Purchase System. You must supply your legal name, driver’s license number, Vehicle Identification Number or TxDOT Crash ID to purchase a copy of the report for a nominal fee.

Read the report or have your attorney review the information with you. An officer might make a factual error, omit a detail or transcribe something incorrectly. Factual errors may be easy to correct with the appropriate documents.

Omissions and inaccurate transcriptions often require discussing the issue and convincing the officer to adjust the report. If the officer refuses to update the account, you can work with your lawyer to challenge the information while negotiating a settlement or court case.

How Can Fielding Law Help You With Your Car Accident Case?

Verifying the police report and pursuing a fair settlement is a heavy workload. Let Fielding Law help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us on our site or at (877) 880-4090.