CopTalk: Auto Accidents


Auto Accidents

You come to a stoplight and stop. Suddenly you hear tires screeching and WHAM, you are struck from behind.


You are trying to parallel park in a parking lot and OOOOOPS, you bump the car in front of you.


A minor collision where both parties agree what has happened.

Any minor traffic accident can be handled without a police officer.  Most police departments handle accidents basically the same way but check with the local police department where the accident occurred for detailed information.

Where I work, the accidents that occur in a incorporated city are handled by that cities police department. Unincorporated areas are usually handled by the CHP. (California Highway Patrol). 

A minor traffic accident with no injuries can usually be handled just by exchanging driver and vehicle information. You call your insurance carrier with the information and no police are usually needed. If police are called, a PDO  (property damage only) report is the only documentation taken of the incident.

A traffic accident with injuries should be reported to a law enforcement agency. Usually there are insurance claims, lawsuits, etc. so documentation by a law enforcement agency is recommended. 

A traffic accident with serious injuries or death should always be a full investigative report by a law enforcement agency. Every detail needs to be fully documented and investigated in a serious injury or fatal accident.

Like I said, every jurisdiction has different reporting requirements for accident reporting, so be aware of your states or local law enforcement’s policies for accident investigation.

Be aware that there are factors that change reporting requirements though.  

Drivers with no drivers license, no insurance, alcohol related accidents, drug related accidents, no proof of identification, violent parties involved in accidents, all should require a police response.

A normal non-injury collision where both parties have proper identification, proof of insurance, and somewhat agree on what happened, usually don’t need police assistance. In fact, a lot of people work it out themselves without police or insurance needing to be notified.

A hit and run accident needs to be investigated. In California, drivers involved in an accident must stop and exchange information. If a driver flees the scene of an accident, it becomes a crime. With injury, it can become a FELONY!

Some NetCops accidents tips:

  • Keep current vehicle registration and insurance information in your car at all times. At an accident scene, I often get handed registration or insurance cards 3-4 years old. Take out the old and put in the new every year. It makes my job easier and less stress on you finding the necessary information
  • Accidents are just that. ACCIDENTS. Don’t get hostile, belligerent, or violent over an accident. If you become violent because your car is damaged in an accident, you can be arrested for battery, assault, or worse. Insurance companies will usually fix your car, don’t do something out of anger that you will regret later.
  • Notify your insurance company of the incident. There is no need to contact the other party. That’s why we pay such big bucks for insurance. Let the insurance companies handle it.
  • If you are in an accident, some insurance companies recommend carrying a inexpensive camera in your car for photos. A slightly dented bumper on the other car may turn into a totaled out car by the time the insurance company is notified. If a camera is not available, take notes.
  • If there is injury or death, call 911 and report it immediately. These accidents CAN NOT be handled without a full and proper investigation.
  • If alcohol or drugs are suspected, request police assistance.
  • If you are the victim of a hit and run, report the accident to police.

Some people don’t want higher insurance rates and would rather handle accidents themselves. That’s fine. But there’s usually a dispute over fault so police assistance is usually needed.  Remember to check with your local law enforcement agency or state laws for reporting requirements in your area.

In regards to hit and run accidents, you can help us identify a responsible vehicle by giving us an accurate



Number of occupants,

Last seen direction of travel,

and if possible, THE LICENSE PLATE NUMBER!

Most people flee because

They have been drinking alcohol

They are on probation

They have a previous DUI

They have a suspended license

They are wanted for another crime and have warrants out for their arrest

Or they simply panic and exercise terrible judgement.

Do not get into a confrontation, but DO notify us immediately with as much factual information you can give us. IT makes all the difference in the world whether or not the driver ever gets identified and held accountable.

Previous articleAsk a Cop? Employee has our stuff?
Next articleCopTalk Podcast: Episode Test


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here