The short answer: yes.
This is a very difficult time in our community to say the least. Not only are our friends and neighbors dealing with fear of illness for themselves and each other, but we’re also dealing with constant changes in ordinances, rules and social norms so we can all do our part to keep everyone as safe as possible. Our community leaders are making tough decisions and our first responders have the unique challenge of balancing their own personal health and safety (and that of their families) with the safety of the community. Not only that, our police officers must continue with their normal shifts and duties along with the mounting challenges around this COVID-19 global pandemic. While staying healthy is a top concern, there are ripple effects in every area of life, having nothing to go with contracting the coronavirus. One example I want to discuss involves automobile accidents, specifically those that include injuries. While we use social distancing to stay home and off the roads as much as possible, there’s still the chance that when we do leave the house for those necessities, we may be injured in a car accident. What do we do then? You may wonder…
How does COVID-19 change how we’d react after an auto accident, especially if we’re injured? Should we still call the police? Would they respond? What if you aren’t at fault?
Although police officers will often tell you that they are not responsible to determine fault when it comes to automobile collisions, police investigations play a key role in insurance claims handling. Claims adjusters will often use the crash report, formally referred to as a CR-3 in order to assign liability percentage and determine who is at fault for the collision.
I’ve discussed the importance of police reports before. From an attorney’s perspective, the initial crash report is an important record that cements certain facts and information. The position of the vehicles, the damage to the vehicles, any statements made by any drivers will all be listed on the crash report.
This is important, because if someone decides to change their story later, there is a record of what was initially seen and/or said.
This is especially important now, because as of March 17, 2020, the Austin Police Department will no longer be responding to crashes when there are no injuries and when the cars can still be driven.
This new policy is a result of the department being stretched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What does this mean for everyday drivers? It means that if you are involved in a collision and you suspect that you may be injured, it is imperative that you communicate that to the 911 or 311 operator so that officers can be routed to your location. Even if you aren’t sure, or your injuries don’t seem that severe in that moment, sometimes it’s hard to know. A car accident is a scary, stressful event. A lot of concerns and fears pop up. But what you do in that moment is extremely important, because often it cannot be remedied later. All that said, depending on how this virus spreads over the next several days and weeks, it’s possible that police will not have the resources to respond to your accident.
So in the event that police are not dispatched, remember that it is vital that you take photographs and, if possible, to record statements of the other party admitting fault.
If an accident has occurred and you are in shock and not sure how to respond, you can always call an attorney before leaving the scene to ensure you are doing the best for your case to get the medical care you need in the future. I sincerely hope with everything else going on, this doesn’t happen to anyone.
I wish you and your family safety and wellness during this trying time.