A car accident, by definition, is an unexpected and often traumatic event. While a crash occurs in seconds, the consequences typically last far longer. While most people call for emergency medical assistance if anyone is injured, knowing what to do next can be confusing. For example, is it necessary to call the police if no one is seriously hurt? What is the importance of a police report?
Here is a guide to reporting a Michigan car crash and why hiring an experienced car accident attorney is the best way to protect your rights and receive the compensation you deserve.
According to Michigan law, motor vehicle accidents must be reported to police immediately in certain situations. While the law does not define “immediately,” it is better to report an accident as soon as possible, preferably from the scene of the crash, under one or more of the following conditions:
1) Someone is injured or killed
Calling 911 to request emergency medical assistance should be the first priority if anyone is injured in a crash.
2) Damage to attended vehicles or other property is $1,000 or more
The $1,000 minimum applies to property, such as another vehicle, belonging to someone who was present or involved in the accident. Police should be called when the cost of the damage is undetermined.
3) Unattended property, such as parked cars or mailboxes, is damaged
Damage to unattended property must be reported to police, regardless of the estimated cost. In addition, Section 257.620 of the Michigan Vehicle Code states drivers must try to find the owner and exchange information. If the owner cannot be located, leaving a note at the scene is not sufficient; the driver must report the incident to the nearest police station.
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There are several reasons why drivers should obtain a police report after a car accident:
Unless one of the above-described conditions exists (injury or death, property damage above $1,000 or damage to unattended property), drivers are not legally required to call police to the scene of an accident.
However, it is advisable to call the police even if your injuries appear minor. The impact of a crash often causes soft tissue injuries or other conditions that may not be discovered for days, weeks or even months later. If so, calling police from the scene of the accident can strengthen your case if you eventually file a claim against the at-fault driver.
Additionally, Michigan law requires drivers, as well as anyone else involved in the accident (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.), to exchange names, addresses, phone numbers/ email addresses and auto insurance information, including company name and policy numbers.
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Michigan law imposes strict penalties for leaving the scene of an accident without either calling the police or exchanging information with the other motorist(s).
If someone was seriously injured or killed, a driver who leaves the scene without calling police may be charged with a felony, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 15 years in jail.
If no one was injured but the accident caused property damage exceeding $1,000 or any amount of damage to unattended property, leaving the scene can result in a misdemeanor charge with a maximum fine of $100 and/or up to 90 days in jail.
Police reports can be obtained through the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Purchasing System (TCPS) for a $10 fee. Requests must include certain information such as the date of the accident and the name of at least one driver. An incident number, usually provided by the police when they are called to the scene of a crash, may also be required.
A credit card and the ability to download the report from the website is required since the system does not use email, U.S. mail or other parcel delivery services.
Additionally, a printed police report can be obtained at the local police department in the precinct where the crash occurred.
After emergency medical assistance has been requested for anyone who is injured, there are other steps drivers can take to avoid potential problems.
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We understand how a car accident can upend your life, especially when you are seriously hurt. When you hire us, we take care of every detail of your case so you can focus on recovering. Most importantly, we have the experience and resources to win the compensation you and your family deserve.
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