Rhonda Maco, ESQ.
You’re Playing Russian Roulette by Not Reporting Your Motor Vehicle Accident: Part 1
So you’re driving happily on the way home dutifully obeying all Vehicle & Traffic Laws including the speed limit, signaling and seat belt laws, to name a few. But this is something you always do, right?! Then, on the way home, you get hit from behind while you are stopped at a red light or, better yet, you are side-swiped by a speed demon who was breaking various laws at the time he hit you. The bottom line is this: someone hit you due to no fault of your own. While the hit was enough to cause what is arguably considered to be slight damage (and who determines what is slight?) to both vehicles, you--someone who is not a medical professional--determined in your mind that you are not really hurt and you just want to go home for a number of reasons, mainly because you do not want the headache of waiting around for the police, you don’t want your insurance premiums to increase and you feel as if you can work this out with the other motorist because, after all, you took a negotiations class in college, remember? But most importantly, in your mind, you’re OK! Well, let me just tell you….NO, NOT OK! Here are a few reasons why taking such a stance after being involved in a motor vehicle accident may not only give you the headache you sought to avoid, but will actually give you more like a reoccurring migraine in the end, to put it mildly.
· You Cannot Diagnose Yourself – Did you know that often times injuries do not become apparent until perhaps hours or a day or two (or even later) after an accident occurs? Leaving the scene of an accident after you’ve been hit is dangerous. The body is an amazing machine which seeks to protect itself at all times. The body’s warning signs, however, may not be readily apparent depending upon a number of factors including shock to your system. Specifically, if you are motivated to leave because you have plans you don’t want to miss, you will likely brush off or completely ignore what your body is telling you. It’s a good chance that not until later that evening or the next day (or later) is when you will feel the effects of the accident. This is true especially if the injuries are soft tissue injuries like neck, back or shoulder injuries. So why chance it? Your health is far more important than the appointment you’re going to miss, even if that appointment is your child’s first school play or that championship soccer game. Getting the proper medical attention will allow you to be there for your child’s future events, amongst other important life events.
· Your Injuries Should Be Documented Immediately – If you leave the scene without having a police report of what happened, or without seeing a doctor, who’s to say that the accident actually happened in the first place? Do you see the problem here? You will undoubtedly put yourself at a huge disadvantage trying to prove there was an accident especially if the police were not called, you did not seek medical treatment and all you have is, allegedly, the telephone number of the person who hit you. Of course you will take down the license plate number of the car, but will it be enough to prove that the accident happened? The answer is: why even put yourself in this position? Protect yourself and your family by making a report.
· Identify Eye Witnesses Now – The best time to gather any evidence, especially eye witnesses to an accident, is at the scene. Do not allow your desire to get on with life to cloud your good judgment. Sure, it sounds like a great idea to get someone’s phone number for a statement later. Well, have you ever heard of ‘no time like the present?’ Getting as much information as you can while it is fresh is always best. Making sure the police officer identifies all relevant persons and information in the police report is essential. This can stop many unnecessary problems that will arise later based upon your knee jerk decision-making at the scene. (And we haven’t even discussed the issue of insurance fraud or denial of no-fault insurance. These issues will be addressed in Part II of this blog).
At the end of the day, there are a host of solid reasons why you should report an accident, but none are more important than protecting your health, safety and well-being. That should be your number one priority always. Don’t play Russian Roulette with your life. I guarantee someone wants you around for as long as possible. Your loved ones will thank you for it and you’ll be thanking yourself too.