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Ask a Lawyer: What to do if you’re in a car accident

We have all heard the stories about how the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) won’t show up at the scene of your automobile accident, even if you call 911 and request them to appear. I am sure many of you, just like me, initially thought – that can’t be true! It evokes thoughts of lawlessness, chicanery and the eventual decline and fall of the Las Vegan Empire.

The good news is that the LVMPD hasn’t abandoned accidents altogether; they are still responding to accidents that meet certain criteria. Surprisingly, even accidents not involving personal injury and with limited property damages could still get an officer dispatched to the scene. I am going to explain how this policy works and what you must do to protect your rights to recover for any loss associated with another driver’s failure to properly operate their vehicle.

Effective March 3, 2014, the LVMPD stopped responding to non-injury automobile accidents considered minor. And yes, to this very day, they are practicing this new policy. However, it is important to know exactly what constitutes the final decision to either show up or not to show up at the scene of an accident. If an accident is minor and there are no injuries, you should still call 911 if the following should occur:

· The other driver will not give you any of their personal information (name, address, insurance information)

· The other driver seems to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs

· The other driver does not have a driver’s license, proof of insurance or registration

· The vehicles involved in the accident cannot be moved from the roadway

· If the accident was a “Hit and Run”

· If the accident was the result of possible road rage or any other crime

So, although the policy of the LVMPD is to not respond to non-injury automobile accidents, under the above conditions, the LVMPD will send an officer to the scene of the accident. Therefore, it is imperative that you call 911 and report what is occurring consistent with the above requirements and request that an officer to be immediately dispatched to the scene. A LVMPD officer will show up and produce an accident/investigation report consistent with the facts and events that have transpired.

Alternatively, you may ask: What if I am involved in an automobile accident that does not meet any of the criteria above and, after calling 911, I realize that the LVMPD will not be showing up? This is where the details regarding what you should do under these circumstances become very important:

· Make sure that no one involved in the accident has any physical injuries.

· Immediately take a video of the position of the vehicles, in addition to a thorough, 360 degree video of the entire accident/roadway/location. It is important to have video and/or photographs of the automobiles involved in the accident before they are ever moved.

However, the need to preserve evidence of the accident in the form of video or photographs conflicts with a very important concern, and that is safety. Removing vehicles from the roadway not only allows traffic to move, but it protects you against being hit again by other drivers coming down the same roadway who are unaware of the recent accident. So, although it is best to get a quick video of the incident, you should not jeopardize you, your passengers’ or other drivers’ safety in doing so.

· Take additional photographs of the property damage that occurred to all parts of the vehicle — not just your own vehicle, but the other vehicle’s damage as well. The main purpose of having photographs of the other driver’s vehicle is because insurance companies will often assert that the accident was minor because of the limited damage to your own vehicle; whereas, the other vehicle may be completely destroyed and/or shocking in its appearance. This is relevant to be able to establish that although your car’s “crumple zone” worked effectively, the power of the impact (revealed in photographs of the other vehicle) relay the truth behind the devastating effects that the accident may have had on your body.

Write down (or ideally take a photograph of) the following:

· The license plate number of any and all vehicles involved in the accident;

· The vehicle insurance card of any and all individuals involved in the accident;

· The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of any and all vehicles involved in the accident;

· The year, make and model of any and all vehicles involved in the accident;

· The driver’s license of any and all individuals involved in the accident;

· The telephone numbers of any and all individuals involved in the accident;

· The name, address, and telephone number of any witnesses to the accident;

· While at the scene of the accident, and when you are safely off the road: Write a brief description of the incident, include direction of travel, speed, road conditions, traffic volume, etc;

· If the other driver is acknowledging fault, ask them to sign a brief paragraph stating that fact.

If you are able to gather all of the information and details listed above, then you should have no problems in the future with asserting your rights to a claim or protecting yourself against a false claim. Printing the list above and putting it in your glove compartment, next to your registration and insurance, will help guarantee that you do not forget any relevant information related to the accident.

Finally, if you are involved in an accident that the LVMPD does not appear at, you must file an accident report yourself with the DMV. The form is called an SR-1 and can be found here.

Take a look at it and perhaps print it out, along with the list of requirements laid out above, and keep it in your glove compartment, too. After all, when you are involved in an accident, you want to be immediately and fully prepared to deal with the situation.

Although Metro’s policy may have initially seemed to breed havoc on our streets, the policy is actually quite manageable, and by following the above recommendations, we should all be able to protect ourselves and our rights.

Got something you’d like to ask a lawyer? Email your question to askalawyer@reviewjournal.com.

This information is for educational purposes and should not be considered specific legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding your individual circumstances.

Marc Saggese is the owner of The Law Offices of Saggese & Associates. He has been a Las Vegas personal injury and criminal defense attorney for over 15 years. Mr. Saggese writes weekly about various issues of the law for reviewjournal.com. For more information visitwww.MaxLawNV.com or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.

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