How to handle an accident - My take

Discussion in 'Legal Questions' started by Timothy Jacques, Sep 7, 2015.

  1. Timothy Jacques

    Timothy Jacques New Member

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    New to the forum here, Hello everyone.

    I am currently researching what DashCam to buy. I have a 31mile each way commute on Central Florida surface roads and highways. I should have purchased one of these years ago.

    I have handled auto insurance claims for the past 11 years. I have seen Dash Cam footage help and hurt cases. Unfortunately, over the thousands of claims that I have handled, and tens of thousands that my co-workers have handled, Dash Cam or usable surveillance footage has only been available in less than a dozen cases that I can think of.

    As owners of Dash Cams, you will likely, at some time, see an accident or be involved in one where your footage is material.

    Below is my opinion only, and is simply what I would do. Please let me know your thoughts, and if you would do something different:

    Scenario 1- You witness an accident:
    - Stop at the scene, and provide your name and phone number to all parties involved. Tell them that you witnessed the accident, and that you will discuss it with Law Enforcement or their Insurance Companies.
    - Do not tell them what you saw (Why debate it with folks in an emotional situation? Why risk that one party will try to discredit your version?)
    - Do not tell them that you have video (What if your recording failed? Why debate what is on the video with them?)
    - Do not wait around for Law Enforcement. Provide your information and be on your way. Most police, sheriffs, and state patrols will call a witness after the fact.
    - When called by Law enforcement, tell them what you witnessed, and tell then that you "May" have captured the accident on video, and that you will E-mail a copy to them or their department. Do not offer to send them a memory card or your camera. They may protest, but trust me, they or their State Attorney have a way of receiving an E-mail.
    - When contacted by an auto insurance company, see above.

    Scenario 2- You are involved in an accident:
    - Stop, turn off your vehicle, unplug your Dash Cam, disconnect it, and place it in your pocket or a bag. Why??? You do not want Law Enforcement to "talk you in to" turning this over to them as evidence. You do not want them to try and seize it- legal or not. You do not want to debate what is on the tape with the other party to the accident. What if you were involved in an accident with another member of law enforcement or firefighter? The "Good Old Boy" network will do everything in their power to protect their comrade- why tip them off that you may have footage.
    - Look around for witnesses and other surveillance footage- Obtain full name and phone number of any witnesses. If any surveillance cameras, ask if you can tape their feed on your cell phone.
    - Use your cell phone to photograph the other vehicle, as well as their license plate. (Many people flee once the police are called)
    - Dial 911, and ask for a police report- Do this every time- no matter how polite, apologetic, etc the other driver is. Just tell them that you need the accident documented.
    - Wait for law enforcement, tell them your version of events, and let them do their investigation. If you are unjustly cited for the accident, say nothing about your video, and present it in court.
    - Call your insurance company, provide them with your version of the events, the contact information for the other party.
    - If any debate arises about the accident, if you hear anything other than "You are 0% at fault, and we are paying for your damages" that will be the time to produce, review, and send your video to the insurance adjusters involved.

    Some general tips:
    - Review the negligence law for your state. In some states, such as Florida, a party can be found from 0% - 100% at fault in an accident- Does your video prove that you are truly 0% at fault? (You did nothing to contribute to the accident, and you could not have avoided the accident.) In other states, such as Virginia, if a party contributes even 1% to an accident, they are barred from recovery. (If you GPS shows you going 3mph over the speed limit, and a party pulled out in front of you, that contribution could be argued.) Other states have "modified" comparative laws- Check yours out.
    - I would think twice before activating a GPS speed function. The speed I see displayed in videos is often delayed by several seconds, and is not 100% accurate. Additionally, it will provide evidence that later may be used against you. See above.
    - Watch your mouth- In the few videos I have reviewed, I have heard drivers making aggressive remarks, cursing after an accident, etc. All of this will display you character, at your most trying moment, to a stranger.

    - Please don't interpret my opinions above as indicating that I am against law enforcement. I have a tremendous resect for the job that they do, as well as the risks that they take. I cannot compare myself, as a desk jockey, to them. That being said, however, law enforcement officers are doing a job, and just like you and I, they make mistakes, defend those they care about, and are, generally, human.

    I'm curious if anyone has found themselves in these type situations, and what happened?

    I'm curious if anyone would do anything different?

    If you would like an objective opinion on an accident you are involved in, I would be happy to discuss it with you.

    Take Care....Tim
     
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  2. MiiHere

    MiiHere Active Member

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    As someone who has been in a not at fault accident nearly every year for the past 5 years, all of this sounds pretty standard (and helpful for those who haven't been in the position.) Especially if you witness an accident, though do many people really stop? In the last 5 years only once has a witness been reported and their phone number didn't end up working.

    Last week some idiot was behind me as we were merging from a single lane on ramp onto the freeway and is claiming I hit him. There were at least half a dozen cars in front and behind us and not a single person stopped. Unfortunately I wasn't in the car that has a dash cam. The video would have showed he was indeed behind me, that I waited for the solid line to become dotted and that I hadn't even had a chance to merge before he came crashing into me.

    I have learned from this that if I do or when I do get hit again to remove the audio from the video. My immediate reaction is always "What the *beep*?" Or "Are you *beeping* kidding me? Not again!" Especially this last one; he was tailgating me, riding 3/4 over the left solid white line and then after he hit me he continued to drive for .2 miles; we were going 35-40 mph and I was off the road within seconds.

    It is shocking to hear that so very few dash cam videos have helped in proving someones story.
     
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  3. erkme73

    erkme73 Well-Known Member

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    Tim, I'm up in Pasco. You're dead-to-rights on this one. One of my former work colleagues was t-boned by a Pasco deputy. She had a green light in an intersection with 8-lanes in each direction (including left-turn lanes). Speed limit was 35mph, which she claims she was doing. Deputy approached the intersection on a red, never slowed, and was passing a bus that was blocking her view of him. According to witnesses, he did not have lights or sirens on.

    FHP investigated the accident - which totaled BOTH vehicles and spun her around 180°. The colleague talked to various witnesses that stopped to render aid, and all agreed he did not slow or have lights/sirens. Yet, in the final report, FHP claimed witnesses stated lights/sirens were on, and the deputy came to a full stop before entering the intersection. The final report contained no names, addresses, or phone numbers of the witnesses who gave statements (something which family LEO's have told me is highly unusual). The colleague WAS NOT cited, despite the report finding that she failed to yield to the emergency vehicle.

    As a consequence, because of the findings in the report, her insurer assessed 100% fault to her - and paid for all damages. Her rates, of course, skyrocketed. Because she wasn't cited, she was powerless to fight it in court. The "good old boy" network knew exactly what they were doing.

    Up until that point, she considered me 'weird' for having cameras in my car. The very next day, she had one on order. It only takes one moment of exposure to reality for people to understand why they need these.

    I concur with most of your statements above, and would add only the following: If you're considering volunteering your video to either driver or the LEO, be aware that you may be called as a witness if the at-fault driver fights any ticket he may be issued. That means you will be subpoenaed, and MUST go. Time lost at work, and compensation (if you're luck) will be less than $10.

    The only time this has happened to me was when I gave a witness statement to the LEO on scene. Now, when I stop to render aid or offer the video, it's to the driver(s). I leave before LEO get there. So far, knock on wood, that's kept the legal side of it at bay.
     
  4. erkme73

    erkme73 Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't even go that far. Get their email address (or give them yours), and be on your way. Once you give a 'witness statement' to the police, you stand a very high chance of being subpoenaed. Remember, you're a witness that just recorded their accident. You have no duty to report it, or even stop to render aid (as you will see most people don't). Simply dropping the driver(s) a link to the video on YT or other cloud-media at a later date, keeps you an arms-distance from them and whatever legal battle may ensue.
     
  5. erkme73

    erkme73 Well-Known Member

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    It may depend on the country/state, but in FL, yes. The first thing the officer does is takes your DL, DOB, full name, etc. That information will be entered into the police report under witness statements. I don't know what it takes for the other drivers to access that information (it may well be a matter of public record), but certainly the legal system and insurers most certainly do.
     
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  6. MiiHere

    MiiHere Active Member

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    I think you can get away with providing only your name and phone number. They MAY want more information, but I wouldn't provide it. I don't even like that the other party in an accident has all your information. That to me seems unsafe.
     
  7. erkme73

    erkme73 Well-Known Member

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    That's because you're using logic. Wife and I were the victims of an assault (MS13 gang member picked our car for his initiation). The cop warned us that by pressing charges, our information may become available to him. Because it was a violent felony, it should have been redacted, but of course, it wasn't. Guy found out where we live. A big cluster ****.

    With traffic accidents, the information is not redacted. So what you volunteer is in the report.
     
  8. erkme73

    erkme73 Well-Known Member

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    Probably a topic for another thread (about government incompetence), but yes. Very scary, because the state attorney's office handed him all of my personal information on a silver platter. My decision to press chargesfor felonious assault resulted in his incarceration and potential deportation (illegal, er, displaced foreign traveler, sorry). Ultimately ICE opted not to deport (despite being a convicted felon) as it would be 'too expensive' and the likelihood of him returning after deportation. I kid you not.
     
  9. erkme73

    erkme73 Well-Known Member

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    Yup. It only takes reality to hit before you start to really pay attention to the world... It's why I have this:

    2015-09-07_12-13-41.jpg
     
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  10. Timothy Jacques

    Timothy Jacques New Member

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    Lots of good discussion. Thanks.

    A few things:
    - Most police accident reports will include a witnesses full name, address, and less frequently, phone number.
    - If you are a witness, you can be issued a subpoena for traffic court. This would generally mean a full day off work for most of us. You could also be deposed and called to testify in a civil trial (likely two full days for you), however, the number of cases that go to civil trial is less than 1%
    - If you witness an accident, and it is safe to stop, you should. I would estimate that 7/10 intersection accidents I see are "Word v Word" situations where both parties claim to have had a green light. People who are at fault in accidents will lie, bend the truth, and fail to tell the whole story in a great many cases. Their victim is often powerless to combat this.
    - As far as your information, in most states, full police reports with witness info are available to those involved in an accident and their agents (Attorneys, Ins Adjusters) immediately after completion, and are public record 30-60 days thereafter.
    - Stopping to obtain the E-mail addresses of those involved in an accident would be a good way to share what you saw, but remain somewhat anonymous. If the matter did go to litigation, however, a good Atty would be able to develop your name a subpoena you.
     
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  11. CD55

    CD55 Active Member

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    Welcome to the forum and great post!
     
  12. ellis456

    ellis456 New Member

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    Great information thanks, im from the UK and would be interested on what to do here as our laws are different, any UK people have any help?..
     
  13. sludgeguts

    sludgeguts Well-Known Member

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    I have witnessed, stopped and handed my name/mobile phone number to the party I deemed NOT at fault. In every case, the decision was easy since who was at fault was obvious.
    I have been in a good half a dozen non-fault incidents. Remain calm, swap details then fill my insurance claim with as many photos from google earth/street view and as many stills from the cam as I feel appropriate to my cause. Where the route isn't entirely clear, I have also driven over when the roads are quieter - on one occasion, this worked really well as everyone in front of me drove the road EXACTLY as it should be driven, lending no-end of additional weight to my argument.
    I have never once so much as hinted at having a camera - and the lies the other party tell must make fantastic reading material.

    Only once have I called the police. The other guy was irate and refusing to give me anything other than a mobile phone number! I had a feeling something was 'off' about him. Even though this vehicle turned out to be on hire (because his normal company van was in for repair !), what transpired long afterwards made me feel that I would've had a dodgy number & he would've got the van to a mate for a quick spray job. Hard to prove someone hit you when there isn't a scratch on their vehicle?

    The mistake I made on that occasion was to turn off the engine. My normal works vehicle runs the power socket 24/7 so I forgot & the cam only recorded about 30 seconds after turning off power (I was using my G1W instead of the Mobius).

    Something to bear in mind at the scene of an incident. Maybe, if the ignition also shuts off power, deliberately stall the engine so power isn't interrupted? Or maybe, if you can, rig the power for always on but with an illuminated switch inline OR run the cam with a UPS.
     
  14. kuoh

    kuoh Well-Known Member

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    Do UK cars not have an ACC position on the ignition switch? In the US, 1 click back from the RUN position is ACC, which stops the engine but leaves the 12V plug and most other non-engine related systems on.

    KuoH

     
  15. Rajagra

    Rajagra Well-Known Member

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    They do, but I guess it's force of habit that you turn off the engine by turning the key all the way.
    And there are inconsistencies. For example the ACC position lets me adjust the mirrors but not operate the windows.
    Rather than stall the engine you could just turn it off then turn the key back. Might reboot the camera but you shouldn't lose much.
     
  16. dash riposki

    dash riposki Well-Known Member

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    If you are not involved in the accident, and somebody has called cops/ambulance, and you're not needed or capable of helping....just continue on to home or work, or some place you can safely review and save the video file. THEN contact the police.
    'I have video of the accident at 3:40 PM, 9-12-15, at the intersection of Stop and Go, in Anytown, USA'.

    You may get directed to the appropriate PD.
     
  17. sludgeguts

    sludgeguts Well-Known Member

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    Trouble is, different cams react in different ways. With my G1W set to record for a minute after power off, it does around 30s ( :confused: ) then shuts down. If I restart power before this, it goes into funny mode - it might continue recording, it might still want to stop, it might even shut down then restart but not auto record.
    Even with my Mobius (capacitor), it shuts down almost straight away when power is cut but even this takes a few seconds - I guess it uses residual power to save the dying seconds of the cam. It then needs a second or two to rest before power.
    This is really why I use a 10s delay timer in my car in order to get past the power on/off/on when I turn on my engine (diesel - I always have to wait for the glowplug light to go out).
    Not all cars do.

    http://www.fiatia.com/fman-439.html
    EDIT - "STOP: engine off, key can be removed, steering column locked. Certain electrical devices (e.g.: sound system, power windows, etc.) can work." On my car, this doesn't work on entry & the power windows only work if the switch has been in the MAR position.
    In my car, everything is normally off. The next position turns everything on including all lights on the dash. The next position turns over the engine whilst cutting power to everything else. Releasing the key returns it to the on position whereupon all the check lights go out. If I want to sit & listen to the radio, I have to have all the dash lights lit up etc. After a drive, I can turn off the engine & remove the ignition key. I can close all my power windows and 'follow me home' lights but as soon as I open the driver's door, this facility is disabled.
    The key can be removed in the "stop" or "park" position. The "park" position is one step back from the normal "stop" position & a button has to be pressed under the key to allow this to be accessed. This position turns on the offside side lights front & rear (for badly or unlit road parking).

    Many modern cars have small engine compartments & tend to use underpowered batteries (physically smaller sized) so manufacturers don't want to encourage drivers to sit with the radio on without the engine running. My youngest is a mechanic with Toyota & he's told me they get a few brand new cars come in with faulty batteries/charging complaints but the owner has sat for ages with the radio on or not used the car for a few weeks.
    The bus I normally drive (with the Mobius & the 'always on' power) has off, ACC, on & start positions. ACC will allow you to, for example, sit with the radio on & allow the power door to operate.
     
  18. esqu1re

    esqu1re New Member

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    Good advice! Maryland is the same as Virginia. Technically, a 1% contribution to the accident means that you cannot recover in negligence. In practice, however, that 1% acts like 20%.
     
  19. SawMaster

    SawMaster Well-Known Member

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    Here in SC, contribution applies only to what the final court decision is; one party or the other will bear all the legal fault, though the involved insurance companies will often 'duke it out' among themselves regards settlements made without an court order of specific payment (the usual solution here). And you are also legally required to stop to render assistance if you happen upon a crash. Within reason that same law indemnifies you against being sued for efforts made trying to help. Still almost nobody stops and the law is rarely used or tried.

    Having been through the process more than I care to remember, if I am involved in a crash I call 911 immediately, ask the other party if they need an ambulance while I'm on the phone informing them I have 911 on the line, then I step back and wait trying to protect the scene from other vehicles becoming involved. A call to my Insurance company to alert them, tell the investigating Cop the basics, then proceed to my lawyer ASAP post-haste since he is the legal expert and I am not. I will say nothing of cam footage- that goes to my lawyer who will deal with that as he sees fit.

    Should I happen to witness a crash and decide to get involved I'll ask all persons if they are OK, make sure 911 has been called and that any need for an ambulance has been phoned in too, then I will try to determine who the involved drivers are. I'll give each of them my business card saying nothing about whether I saw anything or my cam, even if they ask. Chances are that the innocent driver, his insurer, or the Cop will call me and I will tell them that yes, I witnessed the crash but that they will henceforth communicate with me through my attorney. Sorry but it is not my system but theirs which is causing them consternation- I am simply covering my own legal butt doing this.

    The real problem is that insurance companies now run the entire system and are only out to maximize their profits, same as any other business does (my own included) and this is not how it should be. But that is another thought for another thread. Just remember that a closed mouth gathers no foot then act accordingly ;)

    Phil
     
  20. MiiHere

    MiiHere Active Member

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    Excellent saying, but for me hard to remember. I've been hit nearly every year since moving to SC and I am over it. It's too the point where I wouldn't mind owning a pos car.
     
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