Faced with a $30 million dollar budget shortfall, unprecedented staff constraints, and a rising service call volume, Metropolitan Police Department leaders may soon have Las Vegas police officers stop responding to most local car accidents. According to Lawrence Hadfield, a department spokesperson, the protocol change is currently under consideration by officials and could go into effect sometime this year.
The proposed policy would require drivers involved in minor auto collisions to exchange information with one another on their own, as well as fill out their own accident reports to submit to insurance companies. Officers would continue to respond to accidents involving injuries or suspected drunk driving.
How this could affect your auto accident case
Insurance company leaders have voiced alarm about the change, warning that it will lead to increased medical fraud and personal injury litigation, as well as higher auto insurance rates. Unlike civilian witnesses, police responders are uniquely equipped to provide accurate and neutral information about how a given accident occurred, who was at fault and what its effects might be on those involved. Without police reports, the process of investigating accident-related claims will become more time-consuming, expensive and error-prone. Consumers will, it appears, bear the brunt of these costs.
The causes: Too many accidents, too few police officers
Despite the consequences, police leaders may have no choice but to adopt the new policy. As service calls to the department have increased, the number of officers on duty to respond has hit an all-time low. Currently, Las Vegas employs 1.8 officers for every 1,000 citizens. This is well below the national standard of 2.0 and represents a sharp decline from the city’s highest rate of 2.06 several years ago.
For the past five years, police have responded to between 12,000 and 14,000 injury-free accidents, as well as an additional 10,000 accidents involving injuries, annually. Decision-makers are considering whether cutting these responses could help officers protect citizens from more serious crimes.
While no details have been released about when the change might take effect, Hadfield has promised the department will work hard to let the public know when, and if, it receives approval.
If police do stop responding to minor auto accidents, Las Vegas drivers will need to become well-prepared in the event of a collision.
What Las Vegas drivers can do
If you’re one of these drivers, take the time to understand what you can do to protect yourself under the new protocol. In addition to familiarizing yourself with your insurance policy coverage and reviewing how to exchange information with other drivers, you should understand how to collect evidence and communicate effectively with relevant parties about what happened.
Keeping a working camera in the car at all times, for example, will become especially important, so that detailed pictures can be taken of the accident scene, damage to the vehicles involved, and any skid marks on the ground. You should also make a concerted to collect contact information from anyone who may have seen the accident and can corroborate details about what happened. To maximize your chances for successfully resolving any disputes that may arise later, contact your insurance company, no matter how small the accident, seek medical treatment, even for minor injuries, and call your lawyer as soon as possible after the accident occurs.
Finally, consider placing thorough, step-by-step instructions that explain what to do if you’re in a motor vehicle collision in your glove compartment. Having a reference to refer to instead of relying on your memory at a time when you’re likely to be anxious and overwhelmed could make a big difference down the line. Read our post about What to Do If You’re Involved in a Car Accident for more information.Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.
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