Why It’s Important to Report Car Accidents and What to Do When They’re Not Reported

Key Points:

  • Georgia law requires drivers involved in a car accident that results in an injury, death or damage of $500 or more to report the crash to local law enforcement.
  • Calling the police after an accident is often the best and safest thing to do, even if the accident seems minor.  An at-fault driver may sometimes be uncooperative or untruthful after an accident if he/she is uninsured, intoxicated, concerned about legal trouble or paying for the damage he or she caused.
  • The police will obtain the license and insurance information if the other driver is unwilling to share it with you.
  • You should notify your insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company about the accident within 24 hours.

Calling the Police After an Accident May Not only Be Legally Required, it is Often The Safest Thing to do.

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After a car accident in Georgia, the drivers are to exchange license and insurance information, regardless of the severity of the accident. But, some drivers are upset and uncooperative.  Some at-fault drivers refuse to share information because they are uninsured and fear getting in legal trouble or having to pay for the damage he or she caused. Others are intoxicated and belligerent and acting irresponsibly. You may encounter an uncooperative at-fault driver, frustrating your efforts to obtain an insurance payment to cover your losses and complicating an already stressful situation.

Call 911 as soon as possible

If you are involved in a car accident, you should immediately call 911 to report the accident. In fact, Georgia law O.C.G.A. 40-6-273 requires that car accidents that result in at least $500 of damage or cause an injury or death be reported. Determining the amount of damages done to your vehicle based on the visuals can be difficult and misleading. So, the best practice is to report a car accident to 911 and/or local police immediately after the collision.

Does Georgia Law Require Reporting Traffic Accidents to Police?

The Georgia Traffic Code requires any driver involved in a crash resulting in injury or death or damage to another vehicle to stop at the scene and provide his or her name and address and driver’s license information.  O.C.G.A. 40-6-273  requires any driver involved in an accident that results in an injury or death or damage to the extent of $500.00 or more to report the crash to local law enforcement.  We recommend that you notify the police yourself if you are unsure whether the other driver has done so.
Think carefully and do not let another driver talk you out of calling the police and reporting the accident if you are at all uncertain.  This is true even if the accident takes place on private property.  Do not let the at-fault driver make the excuse that it happened “on private property,” and leave the scene.   Although the police will most likely not issue a traffic citation when an accident happens on private property, a police report will be essential to make an insurance claim, and may be evidence in your auto insurance claim if you have been injured.

Why You Should Report Minor Accidents

Even if the accident is minor, you should report the accident to the police to have the documentation that the accident occurred. It will save you the headache down the road when dealing with the insurance companies or if you or anyone involved files a claim or court proceeding.  This is true especially if the other driver tries to shift the blame.

What You Should Do While Waiting For The Police to Arrive After An Accident

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While you are waiting for police to arrive, write down the make and model and color of the other vehicles involved in the accident as well as the license plate number. You may also want to take cell phone camera photos.  Photograph the scene and the damage to all vehicles involved in the wreck.  Photos can help win your case down the road.

You may also get the names and addresses of any witnesses who stop at the scene to speak with you or the other drivers or passengers.

The police will obtain the license and insurance information from the at-fault driver, if the driver is unwilling to share information with you. The investigating law officer should require each involved driver to provide their name and address, as well as the name and address of each vehicle’s owner, the license number of the vehicle and each insurance company that may provide coverage.

Common Questions about Driver’s Negligence

What If The Other Driver in My Accident Has Been Drinking?

It is difficult and potentially dangerous to deal with a drunk or intoxicated driver.
The police know how to handle drunk drivers. It is best to allow an officer to arrive on the scene and deal with the driver. The police decide whether a driver appears legally intoxicated.  If so, they can arrest the driver for drinking and driving. But the prosecution and conviction of a drunk driver will not provide compensation to cover your losses.
You will have to make a separate civil claim to recover money from the drunk driver’s insurance company.  If the drunk driver caused injury to you or others, the at-fault driver and their insurance company may be held liable for the harm caused.

What if The Other Driver Leaves the Scene of A Georgia Car Accident?

This is known as hit and run, and is a crime in Georgia.  Even when the other driver stops briefly and does not stay and wait, this is considered leaving the scene of an accident.  Unfortunately, this happens fairly often, with estimates of over 700,000 per year in the USA.  Hit and run is a serious offense that can actually be a larger offense than driving under the influence, or DUI.  A driver guilty of hit and run could wind up with a suspended license and jail time.
It is best to copy this information directly from their driver’s license and insurance card. If the name on the insurance card differs from the driver or owner of the vehicle, try to clarify the relationship between the individuals and obtain contact information for both the at-fault driver and the policyholder.  If an insurance card is not available, the responding officer may be able to get proof of coverage from the state database.
If you see the other driver leaving the scene, you should try to write down the license tag number.  You should also write down the make, model and color of the car.  You should not chase the driver leaving the scene.  This is dangerous and is the job of the police.  Give the license plate info and the vehicle description to the police.  There is a good chance that the police will look up the driver’s home address and investigate for you.
In addition to making a police report, you should also report the hit and run to your own insurance company.  The accident becomes a John Doe claim through your uninsured motorist coverage.  And, in the event that your insurance company fails to make a fair offer, you may have a John Doe lawsuit.  In a John Doe case, you can recover damages against the driver under your own insurance.  Under Georgia law, one might also call this a Phantom Driver case.

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Uninsured Drivers

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Georgia law requires all drivers to have at least the required minimum levels of liability insurance to drive a vehicle. An at-fault driver’s liability insurance pays for damages and injuries caused to others.

Unfortunately, some drivers disregard the law and drive without insurance. Approximately 1 in 8 drivers in Georgia is knowingly driving around without valid insurance, based on a recent study by the Insurance Information Institute. Other drivers often unknowingly have let their insurance coverage expire or lapse. An at-fault driver can be uncooperative or untruthful after an accident.  Sometimes this is because the driver has no auto insurance coverage.   He or she is likely concerned about losing their driver’s license and having their vehicle impounded.  The driver will have to prove or get insurance in order to recover their vehicle.

If the driver is uninsured or has insufficient insurance to cover the cost of treating your injuries, you can file a claim under you own uninsured/underinsured motorist policy. Your UM/UIM policy protects you up to the limits of your coverage.

What if the at-fault driver doesn’t have any insurance?

If the at-fault party does not have car insurance, you may be entitled to recover compensation if you hold underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage under your own policy. You should contact your insurer to obtain a copy of your declaration page to determine whether you elected this additional coverage.  

Did the Driver Report the Accident to Their Insurance Company?

Do not assume that the at-fault driver will notify their insurance company of the accident. Some at-fault drivers are reluctant to notify their insurance carrier of an accident. The driver may try to deal with the accident without informing their insurance company.  They might be trying to prevent their premiums from going up. It happens quite frequently. This could cause the at-fault driver’s insurance company to deny your claim.
You should contact both your own insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company and notify them of the accident. It is a good idea to notify them by telephone within 24 hours of the accident.  Later, you should follow-up with a certified letter informing them of the accident.

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Reporting a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company

You should also report the car accident to your own insurance company; even if you are not the cause of the collision. Some insurance policies may contain clauses in their policies that allow this to disclaim and/or deny any coverage for you if you fail to disclose and/or report that you have been involved in an accident within a specified time period.

Additionally, when you report the accident to your own insurance company, you may be able to get repairs and/or a rental car quicker, should you go through your insurance company.  Your company will then have a reimbursement claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Again, the longer you take to report the accident to your own insurance company, the likelihood your insurance company may deny coverage for the accident. A denial of coverage from your own insurance company could be extremely problematic if the at-fault driver is uninsured.

Article Summary

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Georgia law requires drivers to report accidents in which there is damage exceeding $500, an injury, or death.  Occasionally, the at-fault driver may be reluctant to report the accident for a number of reasons.  Perhaps he/she was drinking or doesn’t have insurance coverage as required by law. Nevertheless, it is your responsibility to report applicable accidents to the police.  This is true regardless of the other party’s willingness to do so. Remember, if there is no accident report , it may be hard for you to collect damages.

It is also important to gather as much information at the scene of the accident as possible. Necessary information includes the other driver’s name and insurance information. Take pictures of any damage and injuries with your cell phone.  Notify your insurance carrier and the at-fault driver’s carrier within 24 hours of the accident. If you are unable to get the other driver’s information, record the license plate number.  Then give the tag and and a description of the vehicle to the police.

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