This is what you should do if you don’t have the other driver’s insurance information after a car accident.
I’ve noticed a trend occurring more and more regarding car accidents in Baltimore City, Maryland.
There is sometimes missing information on reports, and the reports are sometimes containing wrong information about the accident. Worst is when people injured in car accidents are sometimes not being immediately provided with the other driver’s name and car insurance information. If they only have liability coverage, this means they aren’t able to begin a claim to get their car fixed.
This tends to happen when the police come, and someone is seriously injured at the scene. When someone has serious injuries, and needs to be taken away by ambulance, the police are supposed to produce a police report.
A full police report
A car accident police report should contain information about where the crash happened, the vehicles that were involved in it, and the identity of the various drivers involved. A police report for a car crash also includes the date and time of the crash, the location of the crash and the GPS coordinates for the scene of the accident.
The report will identify and describe the vehicles involved in the crash. The vehicle’s make, model and year are described, but not color. The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN number are typically included as well. The respective vehicles are numbered, such as Vehicle 1, Vehicle 2 and the report is supposed to identify the driver, owner and passengers of all vehicles listed. The report should also contain the names of any witnesses to the motor vehicle crash.
The Police Report “Narrative”
A police report will produce a “narrative” or an explanation of how the crash happened. The narrative is based on the investigating officer’s observations, conversations with the parties and witnesses, and personal beliefs.
The narrative is sometimes incorrect. The investigating officer rarely witnesses a crash first hand, and therefore his information is sometimes inaccurate. Parties to the accident sometimes move their cars from the positions they were in immediately after the crash, some people are removed quickly from the scene via ambulance, and sometimes friends or family of the parties arrive at the scene and try to sway the officer’s narrative in their friend or family member’s favor.
The narrative is also sometimes written a substantial amount of time after the officer was on the scene of the crash, and is based off of memory and perhaps some cryptic notes taken at the scene. The narrative is supposed to assign fault to at least one of the vehicles in the crash.
However, often times this section is simply marked as “unknown” by the investigating officer. Although the officer does not know with one hundred percent certainty who was at-fault, it should still assign blame to one of the parties based off his judgment, knowledge and experience of traffic laws and accident investigation.
Police reports sometimes fail to list any or all passengers in a crash
Often times, the police reports do not list all of the passengers in a motor vehicle crash. For whatever reason, the officer does not include the names, addresses, dates of birth, and phone numbers for every single person in a vehicle. I’ve had many cases where my clients were not listed on a police report have to prove they were in the vehicle through other means in telephone interviews, examinations under oath, or even at trial. It is always a red-flag to an insurance company reviewing a claim when the person making a claim for injuries was not listed on the police report.
Many adjusters do understand that not being on the report is sometimes a simple omission on the report by the officer who wrote it. Over the years, I have successfully been able to settle many cases for fair value when my client, a passenger, is not listed on the police report for one reason or another. This is also why I urge anyone in a car crash to take photos of the scene and the individuals present at the scene in case this becomes, or to prove they were there. Perhaps even taking a selfie at the scene of a crash before even getting out of the vehicle should be done!
More often than not, however, the insurer will assign the claim to their “special investigations unit.” The special investigations unit or “SIU” for short, will then investigate whether the person making the claim was truly a passenger in the vehicle.
Sometimes the investigators become satisfied that the the report was simply wrong and send the claim back to a regular adjuster for normal settlement procedures. Often, however, they press on, and deny the claim, requiring the filing of a lawsuit in court and often a full trial on the merits in order to succeed in achieving compensation.
No insurance information provided timely following motor vehicle injuries
Imagine the following situation: You were just injured in a motor vehicle crash when someone ran a stop sign causing a t-bone crash. You didn’t have a stop sign. Your car spun around a hit a light pole. You had to be pulled out of the car by firefighters and paramedics. You were taken straight to the hospital.
Let’s say you drove an older car, and you only liability coverage. You didn’t have the optional “collision coverage” to repair or total out your car after a motor vehicle crash. You planned to drive safely, so that any accident you were in, had to be covered by the other driver’s insurance because they would be at fault.
However, when the officer came to the hospital, you were simply given the police report complaint number. The officer told you to give that number to your insurance company or lawyer and they would take it from there. The officer told you that all the necessary information would be on the report, which would be available soon.
Your car was completely wrecked and you have no idea where it is. Calls to the officer’s district on the number are answered by saying the report will be online soon. They say to just give that report number to your insurance company and they will figure it out. It all sounds great.
However, your insurance company simply tells you there is nothing they can do because you do not have collision coverage, and the report simply is “not available” yet. Meanwhile, you are without a car and cannot even begin the claims process with the at-fault driver’s insurance if he has one. You have to wait for the report to be submitted online, which can take weeks or even months. So you can’t get to your job, get your kids to school, get to your medical appointments because you do not have the other driver’s insurance information and the police simply won’t provide it to you.
They just say to get the report online when it’s ready. Most of the time, I’ve been able to get a police officer at the district to give me the information over the phone when I indicate the hardship it is causing my client but it often takes many calls until you find someone who is willing to provide the information and assist even if it may not be the official procedure.
In Baltimore City, a police report is not necessarily written for all accidents. The general protocol from what I hear is that police reports are required if one of the vehicles has to be towed, or if anyone leaves in an ambulance. This rule is not always followed 100% but I’d say its at 95% or so. The problem is if you leave in an ambulance, you might not get the other driver’s insurance information until the report is available online which can take a long time!
No report necessary in Baltimore City for hit-and-run accidents
One situation where police reports are not always taken in Baltimore City for an accident is hit and run accidents. There was allegedly a policy change over the past couple years which did not require the generation of a police report for a motor vehicle hit and run. It’s not clear the policy reason for that change, but officers generally provide the person who called to report a hit and run crash with a “citizen contact form” which is something like a receipt to show that you did in fact interact with a police officer at a certain time and date.
If the officer is not willing to write a report, make sure you save that form for submission to your insurance company because you’re likely going to have to report the accident to your own car insurance through your mandatory uninsured motorist coverage.
Solution: Have a place on the complaint number form to provide the other driver’s information
In Baltimore City, people are provide with a copy of a brochure with the police report complaint number on it. One thing that would help prevent some of the issues listed above, is for there to be a spot on the complaint number brochure provided for the officer to write the other driver’s name and insurance information.
Other police jurisdictions and the State Police typically provide a typed exchange of information form at the scene of the crash to all parties, which also includes a police report and states whether a police report will actually be completed. This gives the drivers in the crash the opportunity to immediately begin insurance claims with the responsible party’s insurance company. Hopefully one day Baltimore City will follow suit and begin doing this in the near future.
For now however, I would recommend specifically asking the police for such information at the scene of the crash, and taking photos of the license plate or tag number for the responsible vehicle. Our investigators perform MVA records searches and locate the identity of vehicle owners. Our team will also discover the insurance company the vehicle is registered with. If you have the license plate number or tag number for the at-fault individual, we will attempt to discover the insurance information prior to the police report being completed.
Another winning idea would be to call a friend to come to the scene of the crash. They can assist you with getting this important information.
Remember, driving without collision coverage on your insurance may save you money, but does involve risk and could result in delay. You will have to wait for the car accident police report, and your car’s repair depend on the other driver’s insurance claims decision. I would recommend having collision coverage on all vehicles you drive, and also having substantial Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) coverage as well, and most importantly, drive safely!