Attorney Matt Jett
Reporting an Automobile Accident
What Accidents Should be Reported?
Sometimes it isn’t obvious as to whether or not an automobile accident needs to be reported. As a general rule, any accident that causes actual damage of any kind should be reported. Actual damage includes PROPERTY DAMAGE to either vehicle or other property that was involved in the crash. Other kinds of property could be things like mailboxes, street-signs, someone’s yard, etc. Actual damage also includes any INJURY that is sustained by anyone involved in the crash.
There are a few major reasons that accidents involving injury or property damage must be reported.
First: It’s the law in Missouri.
In Missouri, the law requires you to stop and give information to the other driver, or a law-enforcement officer. While it may not be a violation of the law to simply exchange information with the other driver, the only sure way to ensure you don’t end up getting charged with the crime of leaving the scene of an accident is to actually call the police and report the accident.
Second: You’ll need it to get paid.
In the event that you are going to have to file a claim with insurance to get your car fixed, an accident report from the police might very well be the most important document you will need. I have heard lots of stories from people who were in an accident that wasn’t their fault, and when they contacted the at-fault driver’s insurance (without a police report of the accident), the insurance company denies that their driver was at fault and refuses to pay. Regardless of what the other driver tells you at the scene, they can (and do!) tell their insurance company a totally different story. Without a report you could very well be out of luck.
Third: If you are hurt, you’ll especially need it to get paid.
With accidents that cause injuries, insurance companies are looking for any reason they can to discount (or outright deny) the value of your injury claim. An injury claim is typically much more complicated than a property damage claim. For instance the types of things you can get paid for under an injury claim include not only medical bills and lost wages (aka: special or economic damages), but also things like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and others (known as non-economic damages). If an accident causes injury in any way, the failure to make a report of the accident can create doubt as to whether the impact from the accident was the actual cause of the injuries.
When and How Do I Report an Accident?
When to make the report: Immediately
If you were involved in an accident that caused property, or personal injury damages, the best time to report the accident is when you are still at the scene, prior to moving any of the vehicles involved. Sometimes it isn’t feasible to report the accident without first moving the cars due to safety, or other concerns. Still, you should report the accident as quickly as it is safely possible to do so.
How to make the report: Call 911
The easiest and often quickest way to report an accident is to call 911. The 911 operator will dispatch first responders to the scene, such as an ambulance, fire department, and police department. The Police will be the ones making the accident report in Missouri, so it is very important to tell the police officer what happened, as well as identifying any witnesses that you have talked to prior to the police arriving on the scene.