If you’re caught in a minor fender-bender accident, you may be tempted to ask the other driver not to bother involving the police in it. However, under certain circumstance, it’s illegal not to contact local law enforcement immediately after a car accident.
Use these factors to determine whether contacting the police is necessary in your situation.
How much damage was done?
Some states require drivers to report an accident to the police if a certain amount of damage has been done. However, in New York, you are only required to file a property damage report to the DMV when either driver has damages that cost more than $1,000 to repair.
The DMV may suspend your driver’s license if this report is not filed within 10 days. However, no legal action will be taken over this.
Was anyone injured?
If a person is injured or killed in an accident, state law mandates that the police are notified immediately. Remember that some injuries may not be visible, such as a spinal cord injury.
Since these types of injuries are very common in car accidents, it may be best to always contact authorities in case someone isn’t aware of their injuries. Always ask other drivers if they are in need of medical attention after an accident.
Was the owner of the object you hit there?
If you hit a parked car or another stationary object that is not your property, you must either locate the property owner or contact the police.
For a vehicle you have hit and damaged, also be sure to take a photo, collect the license plate number and report the incident to your insurance company.
Was a domestic animal injured?
If a domestic animal — meaning someone’s pet — has been injured as the result of a car accident, you are required to locate the owner of the animal or contact the police about the incident.
Should I contact an attorney?
After contacting the local authorities, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you handle business with the insurance companies on your behalf.
This may help keep you from mistakenly admitting fault. Even if you believe an accident may have been your fault, there are plenty of external factors you may not be aware of that could impact the case.