Motor Vehicle Collision – should you call the police?

Dec 7, 2021

Motor Vehicle Collision – should you call the police?

A client of ours invited us to tell her story so that others who find themselves in the same situation might think twice about calling the police immediately after a motor vehicle collision.

Our client was in her vehicle, stationary at traffic lights, when a vehicle hit her from behind causing significant damage to her car. Unfortunately, due to her financial circumstances at the time, she had not renewed her own car insurance policy so she was very relieved when the other driver gave her his insurance company’s details. However, he also suggested to her that he would prefer not to claim through his insurance company and offered her $1,000 in cash on the spot to cover her damage.

Our client decided she would not take the $1,000 cash as she wasn’t sure it would cover the full cost of repairs to her car. She felt it would be more sensible to have him claim on his insurance, despite his reluctance to do so.

She had also noticed a smell of alcohol on his breath, and although he was not badly affected by alcohol, out of concern for others she returned to her car and called the police. As it happened the police were nearby and arrived at the scene within minutes. They alco-tested the driver and found he was positive for alcohol.

This was a very unhappy outcome for our client… Yes, for our client!

Later at the police station the other driver blew .15 grams of alcohol per hundred millilitres of blood. His insurance policy had a clause in it that said if he was over .08 grams his insurance policy is void. The guy turned out to be broke so there was no point in my client taking him to court for the damage to her vehicle.

So, by calling the police, my client had eliminated the only way she could have the damage to her car repaired – via his insurance company. She ended up wearing all the cost of that damage herself.

This might make you think then:  if you do not have your own comprehensive insurance policy to cover damage to your vehicle should you call the police at the scene of a motor vehicle collision even if you suspect alcohol might have played a part?

Also, if someone offers you cash at the accident scene, perhaps you should consider taking it but make sure you tell them, or write a receipt for it and note on the receipt, that the money received is ‘part payment of the cost of the actual damage to your vehicle should the cost to repair it exceed the amount of the cash payment’.

If you feel you must call the police at the scene of a motor vehicle collision, and I can see that you might if the other driver is obviously intoxicated, then perhaps at least take the cash before you call. 

Of course, you must meet your legal obligation to report a vehicle collision to the police but this can also be done the following day at any police station.

CAUTION: This article contains general information of public interest only and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon as, legal advice specific to the reader’s personal circumstances. Should you have a legal matter, please seek professional advice before acting or relying on this content.