Can you make an insurance claim following a Mercedes car accident without a police report? There are a few ways you can do so. Read on to find out how you can exercise your legal rights in this situation.
Mandatory Reporting to the Police According to the Law
In Georgia, most drivers view it as standard practice to call 911 to report any car crash they have been involved in. Such a 911 call will result in a police officer responding to the scene to investigate the crash and an ambulance will usually be dispatched as well if there are any possible injuries reported to the 911 operator. However, a question that is often asked in seemingly minor crashes is whether you have to call the police if the damage is minor, the vehicles are still legally driveable, nobody seems injured, and both drivers agree that they would rather move on with their day without having to wait for the police?
The strict legal answer to that question is found in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273. This statute requires a person involved in a vehicle crash resulting in injury or death to any other person or damage to a vehicle to an apparent extent of $500 or more to report the crash to the local police by the quickest means of communication. Failure to do so is punishable as a misdemeanor offense. So in virtually all motor vehicle crashes, making a report to the police is mandatory.
Reporting to the Police Would Be Legally Excused
In the rare event that you do not believe the crash resulted in any injuries and damage seemingly could be less than $500, making a police report is still highly advisable because often the extent of injuries cannot be determined at the scene when shock and adrenaline are running high. It should be noted, too, that $500 is a very low threshold for property damage given how expensive even minor repairs are on most modern vehicles, especially if there’s a Mercedes involved. It would truly be a rare and extremely minor crash where reporting to the police would be legally excused, and there is no sense taking that chance. This is particularly true given the chance that the other driver could be considered uninsured or underinsured as will be further explained momentarily.
But if your crash falls into that slim category of cases with less than $500 of damage and no injuries, can you still make an insurance claim without a police report? Or if the crash fell into the category of crashes that should have been reported but you failed to do so can you still make a successful insurance claim without a police report? Yes, you can if (and only if) you know the identity of the other driver and their insurance company. But in doing so you will have to make sure you have obtained all of the information the police would have gathered if you had called them including the name and address of the other driver, the make and model of their vehicle, their registration (tag) information, and their liability insurance company and policy number. Because police officers are trained to look for this information and are more likely than you are to not only obtain the information but to make sure it is accurate, it makes sense even in crashes where it is not required to still report it to the police and obtain a report.
The State of Georgia Authorizes Police Officers to Make Reports
Georgia law even authorizes police officers to respond and make reports when crashes occur on private property such as parking lots where the rules applicable to public roadways do not necessarily apply and the officer may have no ability to issue a traffic citation to the at-fault driver. Plus, insurance companies are used to seeing police reports in car accident claims, they like seeing a neutral third party has investigated and taken statements about how the crash happened, and it makes them unnecessarily suspicious when you are making a claim without having reported the crash to the police. Unless you have committed a crime you fear a police officer investigating the crash will discover, you have a lot more to lose by not calling the police to report your crash than you do by calling them.
If you do not know the identity of the other driver and are therefore having to make a claim on your own uninsured motorist insurance coverage, you must strictly comply with O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273 and report the crash to the police by the quickest means of communication. According to O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(c), if you fail to report the crash to the police as quickly as possible, your insurance company can deny your claim for uninsured motorist coverage.
Even a relatively brief delay of 4 to 5 days has been held to be insufficient to comply with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273. It does not matter if you have a good excuse for the delay or if the delay does not seem entirely unreasonable under the circumstances, Georgia courts have strictly construed these statutes to require a report to the police by the quickest means of communication as a condition precedent to the insurance company’s duty to provide uninsured motorist coverage. In other words, if you do not first comply with your duty to make a report to the police as soon as possible, the insurance company has no legal duty to provide coverage on your uninsured motorist claim no matter how many years you have faithfully paid premiums on your policy. Thus, it is critical if you are the victim of a hit-and-run type crash to immediately report it to the police or have someone report it for you if you are injured and unable to do so yourself.
A Report to the Police of a Crash is Critical
A report to the police in the event of a hit-and-run crash is critical for another reason as well. Georgia law requires that in order for you to recover under your uninsured motorist coverage following a hit-and-run crash where the identity of the other driver is unknown you have to be able to demonstrate that there was actual physical contact between the other driver’s vehicle and yours unless you have an eyewitness to corroborate your story.
That means if another driver ran you off of the road or did something to cause you to crash without striking your vehicle and fled the scene of the crash, you may not be able to recover even under your own uninsured motorist coverage if you do not have a witness to corroborate your story. This is one reason why it always makes sense to call the police in the case of a hit and run because they can use their investigative training to attempt to document any slight physical contact between your vehicle and the other vehicle with physical evidence such as paint transfer.
They can also investigate and try to recreate the crash to determine if your version of events is supported by any other evidence such as skid marks, debris, traffic cameras or nearby surveillance cameras, other witnesses, or the damage to your vehicle. Perhaps most importantly, they can try to track down the other vehicle and driver so that you can make a claim on their insurance without having to utilize your own insurance coverage that may not be required to cover your claim.
The Bottom Line to Make an Insurance Claim After a Mercedes Car Accident Without a Police Report
The bottom line is in truly rare instances it is possible to make an insurance claim following a car crash without a police report. But the better practice by far even in minor crashes is to call the police and have a report generated because you just never know what may happen down the road. Do not feel guilty that the other driver may be given a traffic ticket. That decision is up to the police officer, and plenty of times the officer may decide not to issue a ticket if the damage is minor and the driver is cooperative. In many other cases, if insurance takes care of all of the bills, a ticket may be dismissed once it gets to court. So you cannot worry about what may happen to the other driver if you call the police. Be more concerned about the problems we have touched on here that you may run into if you do not call the police to investigate and make a report about your crash.
About the Contributor
Mr. Spaulding has helped victims of negligence across the state of Georgia resolve personal injury disputes, and he’s received a remarkable number of awards and honors from the legal community recognizing his commitment to clients and to the metro-Atlanta area.