Las Vegas has become the latest city to determine that unless there are injuries or fatalities involved, its police department will not respond to the scene of a vehicular accident. So, there won’t be any police investigations or written reports on property-damage-only accidents. As of March 3, 2014, it became the responsibility of those involved in the collision to make sure that identification and insurance information is exchanged and that the incident is reported to authorities. The decision follows other cities that have enacted similar Police No-Show policies, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and it could start trending across the country.
The over-riding reason for this change of policy is that the police claim they just don’t have the time to deal with these incidents any longer, estimating that every week, they spend 55% of their time – 250 hours – on these “fender-benders” while they have many more pressing matters to deal with. One issue which needs addressing is when one of the parties involved refuses to exchange information or leaves the scene of the accident. In the first instance, the police can be called to respond and, in the second, leaving the scene constitutes a “hit-and-run” accident, which the police will continue to respond. They will also continue to respond to instances involving drunk driving. Those opposed to the new rule are concerned that it makes it more difficult for motorists to determine and agree on who’s at fault, what needs to be reported to what agencies and how to properly determine insurance issues. The Nevada Insurance Council already called the move a “poorly executed plan” that could lead to safety problems and higher insurance costs.
The new policy can also open the door to fraud, because it’s one person’s word against the other. This is why it is of the utmost importance to document the scene carefully. Take photos, including close-ups of all damaged areas of every vehicle, get witness information from anyone who may have been at the scene, take pictures of the general scene from all angles and document the number of occupants who might have been in any of the involved vehicles. It makes sense to do this whether you’re in a place where police respond or not. Las Vegas has published a list of Frequently Asked Questions for Property Damage Only Traffic Accidents, so you can educate yourself on how to accurately document a scene. And, even if you are nowhere near Las Vegas, there are areas of the country that have implemented this same process, and many more are likely to follow as budgets continue to tighten.