Due to the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 virus, the City of Atlanta Police Department has made a recent policy change concerning car accidents where people say they are not injured. The temporary change was announced via the department's social media pages on Thursday, July 30, with little fanfare. The Departments social media pages have an average of 70,000 followers, despite the city of Atlanta having a population in excess of 420,000 people. There is no doubt this new policy change will come as a surprise to many.
So, what is the policy change?
Previously, APD would respond to any accident. Reports were only written if the accident did not take place on private property. Even with those accidents that occurred on private property (like a mall parking lot), APD would still respond to the scene. They would just ask the drivers to fill out a form called an SR-13 and to exchange drivers’ licenses and insurance information.
APD not responding to non-injury accidents
Now, due to COVID-19, APD will not even respond to a car accident, unless someone is injured and requests medical attention. If no one alleges an immediate injury warranting medical attention, then APD suggests the drivers fill out the SR-13 form and exchange information. The SR-13 form can be found on APD’s website. However, unless you drive around with a printer in your car you won’t really have access to that form. In some large cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the police haven't responded to non-injury accidents for many years, preferring to focus on more serious criminal behavior. We, at Georgia Trial Attorneys, think this is a mistake and fraught with issues.
Many times, after an accident your adrenaline is racing, and you do not realize or recognize the full extent of your injuries. The best practice is to have an ambulance come to the scene to check-out you and your loved ones. This would guarantee that a police officer would respond, all parties’ licenses and insurance information would be confirmed, and police report would be created.
Although officers will continue to respond to severe violations such as a hit and run accident and DUI's, there are many concerns about the new policy. Some citizens are concerned that the other party in an accident could easily lie about their insurance status or simply drive off with no consequences. Until this policy is changed, it will be necessary for every driver to be their own investigator and collect as much information as possible. You will want to get the other person's license plate and driver's license number as well as their insurance information. You may want to interview any witnesses in the area and get their information as well, particularly if the damage to your vehicle is significant.
Liability will be a challenge going forward as most insurance companies depend on the police report as a sort of "honest broker" to determine who is at fault. Of course, the individual who is to blame has every reason to minimize their responsibility and potentially lie to avoid out of pocket costs and increased insurance rates. Unlike law enforcement, private citizens don't have access to the state's electronic insurance database, so they will be forced to take people at their word when they say they have automobile insurance. Drivers should invest in a dashcam or use their cell phone camera to include as much audio and visual information as possible in order to assist in proving their case to the insurance company.
We can hope that the policy will be reversed when the pandemic subsides, but changes of this sort have a way of becoming permanent as they have in other major cities. The best defense is to be prepared and collect as much information as you possibly can. Now more than ever, it is vital to have a qualified lawyer on your side. The greedy insurance companies have every reason to deny your claim. They are only looking out for their bottom line and the interests of their shareholders – they don’t care about you, your injuries or your claim/case.
After you or a loved one have been in an accident, do the following:
- Call 911;
- Request an ambulance to come to the scene to check you out;
- Take Pictures & Video of everything and everyone;
- Get the other driver’s License & Insurance Information;
- Follow-up for an examination and treatment at either the Emergency Room, an Urgent Care or one of the many doctors in Georgia Trial Attorneys’ network; and
Most importantly, pick up the phone and dial 833-4TheWin. We are not afraid to go toe to toe with the insurance companies to see that you get compensation for your damages and injuries. Drivers in the City of Atlanta just got more responsibility thrust on their shoulders. You need an ally like Georgia Trial Attorneys to take on the greedy insurance companies, help you through this process and get you results!