One question I hear often is “Should I move my car after an accident?” In particular, personal injury clients want to know if their case will be hurt if they move their vehicle before the police arrive at the scene. The thought process behind the question fits with what we see on television and in movies – if the vehicles are moved, how can the authorities do a thorough investigation of how the accident happened? And if a thorough investigation of the accident isn’t performed, how can fault be determined?
Police and insurance reports
The reality is that in most car accidents (e.g., rear-end collisions, parking lot accidents), fault is clear and obvious. Only the most serious accidents (usually those involving severe personal injury and/or death) are investigated by the police in great detail. That said, a police report is generated in almost all cases involving personal injury. Such reports are derived mainly from what the parties involved in the accident and other witnesses tell the investigating officer and what the investigating officer observes at the accident scene (as opposed to a forensic reconstruction of the accident).
It is also worth mentioning that the insurance carriers for the drivers involved in the accident will conduct their own investigation. This investigation is separate from any police report and the findings of the police report are not binding on the insurance companies. In most cases, however, the police and insurance companies will reach the same conclusion as to which party is responsible for causing the accident.
What to do after a car accident
Clients should always call the police when injured in a car accident. Reporting the accident will allow for a police report to be taken and for injured persons to be transported from the scene if necessary. However, it is almost always better to move vehicles out of the travel lanes of a road or highway after an accident, if at all possible. By moving vehicles out of the road, you are placing all parties (including police and rescue personnel) in a much safer position and you are easing the flow of traffic in the area, thereby preventing other accidents. In the overwhelming majority of cases, moving your vehicle will not affect the determination of fault and will not hurt the value of your potential personal injury case.
Joseph Greenwald & Laake, P.A. handles auto accidents throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, please call one of our personal injury lawyers at (301) 220-2200.