This article is written by Peters and Associates.
According to official 2014 statistics from Metro Police, there were 13,678 reported collisions in the agency’s jurisdiction, and 8,727 involved injuries.
The numbers were down significantly from 2013 for several reasons, but our city still averaged more than 35 accidents per day. With such staggering numbers, you can imagine I get asked this question a lot.
Metro’s February 2014 policy change that “officers will no longer investigate or write reports on non-injury accidents” is partly responsible for some of the confusion at the scene. And while our new sheriff, Joe Lombardo, has stated it’s his “intent to (go) back to handling minor vehicle accidents,” he also has said it’s not going to be immediate and he needs to increase the number of officers before such a change can be made.
So, what should you do if you get in an accident in Las Vegas? It’s much better to have a plan and never need it. And remember, if there’s ever concern, call 911 — even if you already did and the dispatcher said no one was coming. Drive safe, Las Vegas.
Take a deep breath and try to stay calm.
Although panicking and getting angry or upset are natural reactions after a collision, doing your best to keep a level-head will help you get through the situation and help you recall details later.
Check for injuries
Is everyone in your vehicle OK? What about the other car? If there are any injuries, no matter how small they may seem, call 911 immediately. And remember, you may be injured even if you don’t feel it right away. Whiplash injuries normally don’t show up until days later, and adrenaline can mask pain. So, if you even feel you may be injured, it’s best to call the police.
A word of caution: If the other driver seems overly irate, if you're scared or have a gut feeling that something is not quite right, stay in your vehicle, call 911 and wait for police or paramedics to arrive. If possible, stay on the phone with the 911 operator until they do.
Turn on your hazard lights
Some vehicles automatically turn these on when they sense a collision. Hazard lights will alert other drivers of trouble in the area.
Move the vehicle to a safe place out of traffic
Do so when an accident is injury-free, the cars are functional and it’s safe to move the vehicles. This important step can prevent further collisions, especially if traffic is heavy.
Call the police (911)
Even if the accident is minor, it should be reported to Metro before you leave the scene. A 911 operator will determine whether police need to be dispatched. Also, parts of the valley are not part of Metro’s jurisdiction. In those areas, police may have different policies and be required on the scene.
Be polite, but don’t tell anyone the accident was your fault (even if you think it may be)
State only the facts and try to limit what you say about the accident to police or an insurance company. You should speak to your attorney before making any statements.
If needed, contact 911 multiple times
If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, is being uncooperative or won’t provide personal information, and if 911 isn’t sending the police, call again. Request they immediately send an officer to respond to an “uncooperative driver.”
Use your camera
Most of us have cameras on our cellphones. At accident scenes, cameras are great tools. But if you don't have a camera, that's OK, too. Just make sure to write down notes about what happened.
#1 Exchange info with the other driver: Take photos of insurance cards, driver’s licenses, license plates and registration information for all vehicles involved. Make a note of the driver’s phone number or have them say it into a video recording.
#2 Document the accident: Take photos of all vehicles from all angles. You can use the video function to walk around the cars, too.
#3 Document the surroundings: The environment may have had a role in the crash. Is there a street light out? Do you think the other driver ran a stop or yield sign? Was there oil or debris on the road? It’s useful to take pictures of all these things.
#4 Take notes: Turn the camera on yourself to give a detailed account of what happened from your perspective, for your use later.
Notify your attorney as soon as is practical
The sooner you contact an attorney, the faster they can begin gathering evidence to support your case. If the accident appears to be your fault, the evidence may help exonerate you. If the accident was the other driver’s fault, evidence gathered may help prove your case.
If you have a question you’d like to see answered by an attorney in a future issue, please write to questions@PandALawFirm.com.
Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.