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LAPD’s New Rule: No Traffic Collision Reports Unless Exceptional Circumstances

The Los Angeles Police Department announced a police report policy shift on January 13, 2021. Unless the car accident involves a DUI or crime, or broken limb, or ambulance transport is required, the police will no longer come to the scene of an accident and take a report. No ambulance required = no officer required. If no ambulance is needed, the LAPD considers it a “minor” accident for which no officer is dispatched.

Instead, victims of “minor” accidents are referred to an online crash report system run by Lexis Nexis. The victims must report their own accident online, with their own version of what happened.

Our law firm’s experience: even if a car accident injury victim is transported by ambulance, sometimes the police still won’t show up and write a report.

The reason for LAPD’s policy shift: in response to calls to defund the police, the LAPD budget was slashed, which reduced the number of officers.

The new policy will likely result in a severe underreporting of crashes, which will hamstring the Department of Transportation’s ability to identify dangerous locations where safety improvements are needed.

For injury victims, the effect of police not responding to the scene and writing a traffic collision report could not only make their claim against the other driver more difficult, but it could also put their health at risk. For example:

  • Without police at the scene to discern whether to summon an ambulance, it’s left up to the victim. A car crash victim may play down their injuries at the scene because they do not realize the severity. If the victim suffered a concussion, they may be so stunned, dazed, and confused at the scene that they do not appreciate the extent of their injury. Without immediate medical treatment, untreated injuries can become exponentially worse.
  • An injury victim may be worried about incurring an ambulance bill, and thus not request an ambulance, even if it’s needed. Many injury victims erroneously think their health insurance won’t cover an ambulance bill.
  • A police report usually includes the officer’s conclusions about the cause of the crash and the party at fault, based on the officer’s observations at the scene and statements the officer obtains from the drivers and witnesses. Self-reporting takes away the element of having a neutral arbiter present at the accident site. Without a police report and the independent conclusion of the officer, there is a good chance that each driver, when reporting the accident online, will place the other driver at fault.
  • In the aftermath of a car crash, drivers can be so nervous and shaken up that they don’t take photos of the other driver’s car, driver’s license, license plate, or proof of insurance. If there is no officer present to collect this evidence, the injury victim will have a challenging time pursuing an injury claim against the other driver. The other driver may not self-report to the online system, and then deny they were even at the scene, or deny they were the driver. There is no unbiased third-party report to prove that the other driver was present.
  • Without an officer on the scene, there is no independent third-party identifying and interviewing witnesses and noting the existence of dashcam videos or surveillance videos that may have captured the accident.
  • The other driver’s insurance company will use the lack of a police report against the injury victim to support the insurance carrier’s position that the victim’s injuries were “minor.”

Bottom Line: If you’re injured in a car accident in Los Angeles, and you’re on the fence about whether to request an ambulance – do it! Protect your health and protect your future ability to make a claim.

McGee, Lerer & Associates is a Los Angeles personal injury law firm specializing in serious injury accidents. We provide free consultations.