As an experienced personal injury lawyer since 1982, it gives me no pleasure to write the above headline. Many of my friends (indeed my family) are cops, and overall they do a great job protecting us from the bad guys.
Nonetheless, when I see a practice everyday that hurts my clients, I need to speak up. Lately, throughout Sacramento, officers have been coming to accident scenes and failing to write a police report.
Last week, I had a call from a lady in a new BMW who was involved in a collision on Folsom Boulevard with over $30,ooo in damage to her car.
When the police officer arrived he asked ” Are you OK”, she took quick stock and answered “I guess so” and he just had the drivers exchange information and went on his way.
Now the medical profession is well aware that most people have no idea at an accident scene if they are injured or not. Sure, if they break a bone they’ll know it, but the vast majority of cases involve injuries that show up later.
It takes awhile for edema (swelling) to show up. Further, many times, people in accidents are in a state of shock. It may be many days or even weeks before the drivers or passengers make their way to a local hospital or doctor for treatment.
In a fair percentage of those cases, the injury treated will be a permanent one involving long term disability or surgery.
And in those cases, it is often difficult or impossible for the injured party to prove fault because an officer failed to ask for witness addresses, make a quick assessment of the scene, and otherwise help document the facts that would pinpoint liability.
Most citizens in accidents are taxpayers who deserve better.
Just to be clear, it’s technically the officer’s choice to write a police report or not if someone says they are not injured , but in the past most officers realized the harm lack of a report would cause, recognized the mental state of people involved in the collision and would take the time to write a report.
My suspicion is that some pen pusher who hasn’t been on the streets in years, is behind this not the officers themselves.
Nonetheless, it’s hurting people every day who should be helped and not punished.
Until the Sacramento police policy changes, I’d suggest in any decent property damage accident that, if the officer asks if you’re injured, to tell him “Yes”, because you likely ARE.
Photo Attribution: By California Highway Patrol (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons