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The cops aren't coming to your fender-bender

In some cities, police no longer respond to auto accidents, even when the property damage is serious.

By QuinStreet May 1, 2014 4:21PM

The post comes from Susan Ladika at partner site on MSN MoneyAuto insurance companies always tell you to call the police if you've been in a wreck, but what do you do if the cops don't come?

 Businessman talking on his cell phone by a car accident © Stewart Cohen, Blend Images, Getty ImagesLas Vegas has become the latest city to decide that police won't respond if you're in a fender bender. And that's not just if your car kisses bumpers with another one in a parking lot. If you're in an accident with major damage, but no one is injured, the cops may not arrive.

That concerns Michael Geeser, president of the Nevada Insurance Council, a non-profit organization that represents the property and casualty insurance industry. With the new law, motorists now have to take down details about the wreck, as well as the other driver -- something they're not experienced in doing. If the wreck occurred on a roadway, there's a chance they might step into traffic and get injured as they're gathering information.

And tempers may flare. "There's a ton of road rage out there. It's not necessarily the most polite people that have to exchange information. There's anger, outrage, words flying. Now you're putting people in the untenable position of having to gather information in such a scenario," Geeser says. "People can intimidate the other party and coerce them to write or say something they didn't mean to."

Emerging trend: Cities opting out of cops at accident scenes 

Las Vegas isn't the only major city that has adopted such a policy. You'll encounter similar policies in places such as San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia.

Even if police don't respond in Las Vegas, you're still expected to file an accident report within 10 days of the wreck. In Las Vegas, you're legally required to report any accident with at least $750 in property damage.

Steve Rutzebeck, director of Geico's special investigations unit, says most states require those involved in an accident to exchange information such as their name, address and insurance company information. The requirement to file a police report varies from state to state.

You also should file a report with your auto insurer, and these days many companies allow you to use an app on your smartphone so you can start the claims process while you're still at the scene.

Even if you don't have a police report, that won't derail your auto insurance claim. "While a police report can be very helpful, the claim will be handled on its merits with or without a police report," Rutzebeck says.

If you're in a car wreck, USAA spokeswoman Rebecca Hirsch recommends "don't apologize after an accident -- even if you think you're at fault. An apology could be used against you later, regardless of whether you were entirely to blame."

She also recommends:

  • Move your vehicle out of the road if it's drivable.
  • Record details such as the name of the other driver, his driver's license number and license plate, number of passengers in the vehicle, and the year, make and model of his car.
  • Record his insurance information, such as the company's name and agent's name, phone number and policy number.
  • Don't share details of your policy, such as your coverage limits.
  • Ask for the contact information of all witnesses.
  • Take photos or video of the accident scene and vehicles involved.

Geeser, who is a regional director of government affairs for CSAA Insurance Group, an AAA insurer, also recommends taking photos of such things as the street or intersection where the wreck occurred, street signs and the traffic flow. "It helps us tell the story," he says.

Will violators be ticketed if the cops don't show? Probably not

Without a police presence at the accident scene, it creates more work for an auto insurance company to investigate your claim, and that could mean your claim could take longer to process, Geeser says.

Even if no one is injured in the wreck, if you suspect the other driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should call police, he says.

In some areas of the country, auto insurance fraud is rampant. Having good documentation helps protect you against fraudulent claims by the other driver, Rutzebeck says. "Photos from a cellphone are extremely important," he says.

Rutzebeck also recommends shooting photos of the vehicles from several angles, and taking photos of the passengers in the other car.

"Fraudulent activity can occur whether or not the police respond. Sometimes those committing fraud want the police to be on the scene to add credibility to their future fraudulent claims," Rutzebeck says.

On the other hand, staged accidents could be easier to pull off if police don't show up, Geeser says. In those cases, "motorists aren't trained to look for the fraudulent staged accidents, where law enforcement is."

If fraud increases, it could drive up insurance rates for all motorists.

And if police don't show up at the scene of a collision, drivers who have violated a traffic law won't get ticketed, says Jesse Roybal, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

"That's really where the trouble lies," Geeser says.

If someone regularly runs red lights and causes several fender benders, he'll never be caught. "That guy isn't paying any more for his insurance than you or me," Geeser says. "He should be."

Recording a motorist's traffic infractions "helps shape the entire insurance rating system, making it unfair for the people who obey the law," he says.

More on

May 1, 2014 4:31PM
So why do we still pay taxes? We don't get anything in return, except a few crumbs from whatever is left over after the politicians pay off their benefactors and pad their own pockets.
May 2, 2014 1:17PM
The only thing the police do is sit in their car by the highway waiting to catch drivers going over the speed limit  or for DWI's because they make money for the city.  Unless they are making money for the city don't depend on them to show up.
May 2, 2014 5:35AM
Police don't show up for anything,  had some tools stolen from my truck last March,  (nail guns/saws etc.)  over $2k missing.  I called them and they wanted to take my report over the phone. 
May 2, 2014 1:29PM
I had a lady run into my truck a few weeks ago.  A state trooper didn't see the accident but stop about 2 minutes after it happened.  She instructed us to move our cars to a side road.

We did that then we were informed that we were in the county area and she wouldn't be filing a report and that the county would not respond because it was a non-injury accident.

Lucky, I took picture before we moved the vehicles because when I called the insurance the other driver was claiming I hit them.

Those pictures are the only reason I didn't get at least partial fault for the accident.

Take pictures or you might have to pay.
May 2, 2014 1:12PM
Most insurance companies require a police report before they will allow a claim to be filed. If the police don't come, there is no police report. How are people going to get what's due to them from the insurance companies?
May 2, 2014 7:46AM
May 2, 2014 1:44PM
How long until the police don't have to do anything but show up to shoot people? It seems to me that there is no reason to pay taxes for police protection any more. How long before someone is killed over a little accident because the cops don't show up to do their jobs? Why not jus pay them to sit at a desk and never leave it? Remember when this was a safe country that everyone envied? I miss those days.
May 2, 2014 2:29PM
Everybody needs a dash camera, like in Russia...that's what we've come to.
May 2, 2014 2:27PM
Oh sure why not but its OK to moonlight with city property to direct traffic out of church on Sundays
May 2, 2014 12:04PM
It is police job is paid for. We need a state or federal government to demand the police arrival.
May 2, 2014 2:28PM

Protect yourself, carry a camera, better yet, a dash mounted camera.

May 2, 2014 2:22PM
THAT'S PART OF THEIR JOB !!  In locations where politicians have allowed laws and regulations to be passed that support the Police NOT responding to accidents, those locations need to accept and ALL liability for cost and injuries that happen as a result of Police NOT responding.  Take part of the Police Budgets and hire individuals that WILL RESPOND to investigate accidents.  My insurance rates may increase because someone else violated traffic laws but POLICE FAILED TO INVESTIGATE THE ACCIDENT and as a result MY INSURANCE had to pay.  
May 2, 2014 1:38PM

This Serious Implies how inept our cops are on dealing with the Public!

In their warped minds---who cares if there is an accident I need my doughnut and coffee break!

Poor Cops mean a poorly protected Public---end of Issue!

May 2, 2014 2:13PM
The wait here in NY is a mere 6 hours for the Police to show up, so there's no need for NYers to invest in a dash cam yet...
May 2, 2014 2:13PM
insurance companies are ticked because if there is no police response the liable party can give fictitious information and there is no proof they were driving the vehicle. seen it happen. the insurance company that would not normally pay gets stuck with the bill. its always about currency people.  otherwise insurance companies would not give two shakes about what the cops do. they did lobby the states some time ago to show an accident even if it was not your fault, it became your responsibility to supply the documentation to your insurer to prove it was not your fault. it used to never show on your driving abstract if someone else was at fault.
May 2, 2014 2:29PM
Or how about Christmas time when I took a photo of 5 cop cars sitting in a line talking to each other in mid afternoon.
May 2, 2014 2:27PM
Yeah, can't interrupt that donut run...
May 2, 2014 2:25PM
According to the current North Carolina Driving Manual and as interpreted via an actual test question that I just had a few weeks ago, you must call law enforcement and report it after an accident, even BEFORE moving your car safely off of the road! I thought that the 'precaution' (in the manual) would be to move off the road first, but the examiner told me that the test was approved by somebody who thought otherwise. Not that one wrong matters...but, the next time I am stuck in the middle of the road I will obey the rule and call first.
May 2, 2014 2:31PM
If they want to opt  out  of fender benders they should also opt out of speed traps and any other money making schems
May 2, 2014 2:42PM
Just another step toward the complete breakdown of American society. What are we paying the police department to do? I remember when "To protect and To serve " actually meant something. may God help us all.
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