Everyone should know what to do should they ever be involved in a car accident. Under certain circumstances, you are required by law to call the police and file a police report.
When to call the police after an auto accident
Having an officer at the scene of the accident will expedite the exchange of information between all parties involved. No matter who is at fault, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire you are required by law to call the police to a scene of an accident when the following occurs.
- When there is personal injury: You should call the police immediately for medical assistance if anyone is injured at the scene of an auto accident. The dispatcher will also notify the police, and the officer at the scene of the accident will file the police report. (Be sure that you get a copy for your insurance claim.)
- When damages exceed $1,000: It doesn't take much of an impact to create $1,000 worth of damage, especially if newer models are involved.
According to 911.gov if you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency help.
In Massachusetts a crash report must be filed with the Registrar when these circumstances occur within five (5) days unless you are physically incapable of doing so. A copy must also be sent to the police department with jurisdiction where the accident occurred. In New Hampshire a motor vehicle accident report must be reported to the Division of Motor Vehicles when these circumstances occur within fifteen (15) days. Both Massachusetts and New Hampshire have specific requirements around your legal responsibilities following an automobile accident. Massachusetts requirements are available on the dmv.org website while the New Hampshire requirements are outlined on nh.gov.
Has there been a motor vehicle violation?
If you feel that the other driver has committed a motor vehicle violation but doesn't want you to call the police, ignore him or her and make the call. They might argue that if no one is hurt in the accident, all that's needed is an exchange of insurance and personal information. Often times all parties at an accident scene appear to agree about the facts then later change their minds.
What about fender-bender accidents with no injuries?
The police department may decline to respond to a minor accident scene if no one is hurt. However, it's still a good idea to make the call and let them decide.
Should the police choose not to come to the scene of your accident, and you feel rattled and unsure about how to proceed, at the very least you can ask the dispatcher for advice, if you need it. In this case, no police report will be filed unless you go to the nearest police station and file one yourself.
Reasons to file your own police report
Should the police decline to come to your minor auto accident, an official police document will be an asset for the following reasons:
- Delay in damages. Not all damage to the cars or the people involved is apparent at the scene of an auto accident.
- Future liability. Even if you and the other driver (or passengers) appear to agree about what caused the accident, you can't be sure that they will hold this same opinion later on. A police report is a powerful document should there be litigation.
- Facilitating a settlement. A police report may expedite the insurance claim process.
Be sure to notify your insurance agent immediately when you are involved at the scene of an auto accident. Safety Insurance offers a list of information you should exchange with the other driver(s).