In an Accident? The Best Policy is to Call the Police
I recommend calling the police anytime you are in a motor vehicle accident at the very least to document the accident occurred. Florida has serious penalties for leaving the scene of an accident without fulfilling certain obligations, so do not leave an accident scene without making sure you have met them. These laws apply regardless of who caused the accident. Many times, depending on the severity of the accident, the police may not even come to the scene, but, because of reporting requirements and the benefit of documentation, I think it is smart to call the police anytime you are in an accident, if nothing else, to create a record.
Accidents with Injury or Death
Florida law requires that every person in a car wreck resulting in death, personal or bodily injuries, or property damage over $500 stop at the scene, call the authorities, and remain on scene until the drivers have given law enforcement their personal information including their name, address, and vehicle registration. You also must do whatever you can to help any person injured in the accident. This requirement to remain at the scene applies regardless of whether the injuries are minor or severe and regardless of who caused the accident. Leaving the scene of an accident with bodily injury is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Leaving the scene of an accident with death is a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If you are in an accident, regardless of whether you caused it, and someone is injured or dead: stop, stay at the scene, call 911, and help the people who are injured. If you fail to do so, you face serious consequences.
Accidents with Only Property Damage
If the motor vehicle accident has property damage only and the property has more than $500.00 damage, you must call the police and remain at the scene until you have given law enforcement your name, address, driver’s license, and vehicle registration. If the accident has property damage only and the property has less than $500 damage, then you do not have to call the police, but you cannot leave the scene until you have provided your name, address, driver’s license, and registration information to the other person. Leaving the scene of an accident with property damage is a misdemeanor and, depending upon the amount of damage, may be punishable by up to a year in jail.
Most people do not truly have a good idea of how much it costs to repair cars, motorcycles, or other property, so I highly recommend calling the police regardless of how much you think the repairs will cost. Describe the accident to the police and let them decide if they are going to come out. Make sure you do not leave until you have given the proper personal information required by law.
Accidents with Only Property Damage to Unattended Property
If you are in a motor vehicle accident, and a car, truck, motorcycle, wall, sign, or other property is damaged and unattended (meaning you cannot locate the owner), then Florida law requires that you notify the owner. Leave a note with your name, address, and registration information and call the police to report that you have done so. I also recommend taking a picture of the note and the location where you left it to verify that you did so. Again, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage is a misdemeanor and, depending upon the amount of damage, may be punishable by up to a year in jail, so be sure to document that you have provided the proper information. I still recommend calling the police, so that you create a record of what happened and what steps you have taken. Let the police decide whether they will come out.
Do Not Leave the Scene
The duties to report accidents to law enforcement and to remain on the scene until the appropriate conditions have been met apply to all drivers regardless of who caused the accident. Do not leave the scene without fulfilling proper legal duties depending on the situation. Leaving the scene before you are allowed to do so can result in serious consequences. Some Florida laws also require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to revoke driving privileges upon a conviction for leaving the scene, so it is imperative that you know what to do when you are in an accident.
My advice is to always call the police when you are in an accident. You can’t get in trouble for calling the police, but if you don’t, you could be in serious trouble if you don’t comply with the law. The law can be confusing, so if you are unsure whether to call the police, call them. Be straight forward and give them an honest assessment of the damages if you believe the damage to be slight so that they can make the decision to come out. Of course, if the damage to the vehicle or property is serious or if someone is injured or dead, always call the police.