New Policy on Non-Injury Car Accidents in Atlanta Rolls Out
By Space Coast Daily // October 8, 2020
The Atlanta Police Department (APD) has recently reversed a controversial policy about automobile accidents that they established during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In late July 2020, the APD announced that they would no longer respond to car accidents that did not result in injury. As the height and fear of the virus is dissipating, Atlanta is seeing more of its residents out of the house and on the road, which has led APD to reverse this policy.
The COVID-19 Car Accident Policy
On July 30th, the Atlanta Police Department gave notice to the public about its new accident response policy through a Twitter post. The post stated that this policy was to “protect the health and safety of our staff and customers, and to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19.” APD Sgt. John Chaffee also noted in an email that the policy has been under consideration since March.
Chaffee went on to state how the department responds to 1,080 accidents every month on average, and only 10% of those involve serious injury. Atlanta police will still respond to those 10% of accidents with significant injuries, as well as any accidents that involve criminal activity or public safety, including hit-and-runs or accidents that left a vehicle disabled and is causing a traffic hazard.
For minor fender benders, the APD has left those involved to handle reporting and documenting the scene, and has released guidelines to assist citizens involved in non-injury accidents.
These guidelines list detailed steps to take after an accident has occurred, including what information to collect from the other parties, what photos to take at the scene, and what to do after leaving the accident location. APD had also advised filling out form SR-13; a form previously used for accidents that occurred on private property.
The Atlanta Police Department announced this policy update on July 30th, and by August 14th another statement was released reversing that same policy. Released again through Twitter, it stated that the number of vehicles on Atlanta streets has increased, and officers will resume responding to non-injury accidents.
Repercussions of the Atlanta Police Department Policy
There are several issues that can surface when police do not respond to auto accidents, whether serious or just minor fender benders.
An absence of officers as a third party in a car accident can impact insurance claims, liability allocation, and even what occurs at the scene of an accident.
When an accident occurs, both parties want to prove they contributed as little fault as possible to the crash, so there is a bias that is present between both drivers.
Police officers act as a neutral third party, knowing what information to gather and what evidence to report.
If one driver is not at fault, a police report can go a long way in assisting them when it comes to insurance claims.
Drivers may believe their accident did not result in an injury at the scene, and instead realize days or even weeks later that they are injured and need to file a claim.
The first thing insurance companies look at when there is a personal injury claim is the police report. Without a report, insurance companies will be more likely to deny the claim.
Additionally, there is a higher chance of a fraud claim without a police reporting the accident.
Without an official report, it is tough to identify what injuries occurred as a direct result of the accident, and claims for nonexistent injuries can take place more easily. Allocating liability is also an issue when trained officers are not there to collect information.
Questioning witnesses at the scene of an accident is one vital task that may not be completed by an officer, and may result in one party’s word against the other.
Additionally, If drivers are aware that officers will not respond to an accident, they may be more likely to provide inaccurate information, or none at all.
Involving the police in auto accidents is an integral part of resolving the issue as quickly and as fairly as possible.
Without them, information collected may be inaccurate, injured parties may not receive fair compensation, and drivers may leave the scene altogether.
With the panic of Coronavirus dissipating, Atlanta police officers should resume investigating all auto accidents, while maintaining proper CDC guidelines to ensure motorists are protected.