At one point or another, all drivers are likely to find themselves involved in some sort of car accident, whether it is a major collision or a minor fender-bender. These situations can be scary, especially when it is your first time dealing with a collision and its aftermath. If you were the one at fault, or at least partially at fault, you may be wondering what steps you can take to limit your potential liability for the incident. On top of all that, if it is a police car that you are involved in the accident with, this can be even more intimidating. Below, our experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer at Overson Law, PLLC helps you understand the best steps you can take after a car accident to ensure your rights and protected and you face minimum repercussions.
Collision with a Police Car in Salt Lake City
It may seem as if hitting a police vehicle would come with higher penalties than those that come with being in an accident with a civilian vehicle. However, this is not the case. Unless the accident occurs as part of a high-speed chase with officers, in which case you may face additional charges for resisting arrest, it will be treated by the law as any other accident would.
One thing to note is if you do not believe you are at fault, or even if you do not believe you are entirely at fault, you should not be intimidated by the fact that the other driver is a police officer and thus fail to properly document the scene. Even if the officer claims it was your fault, you should take pictures, speak to witnesses, and gather other evidence that may help you make your case down the line. The mere fact that the officer issues you a ticket for reckless driving in Salt Lake City or some other offense does not automatically mean that your insurance company will concede that the accident was your fault if your recollection of the events was different.
What to Do Following a Car Crash with a Police Vehicle in Salt Lake City
In the first minutes after a car accident, you are of course going to be taken aback and worried about making sure that you and any passengers in your car are not physically harmed. If there have been any physical injuries to those in your vehicle, including yourself, you should act right away to get medical attention. This is not only important for your health and safety, but also for any potential claims for damages you might make down the line.
You are also required under Utah law to check on the occupants of the other vehicle and make sure that they are not injured. If they need medical help and are unable to get it themselves, you need to get it for them. Assuming there are no major injuries preventing this from occurring, you will be required under the law to exchange information with the driver of the other car, including your contact information and insurance information. For smaller accidents, this exchange of information, followed by a call to your insurance company reporting the incident, may be sufficient. For larger accidents, the police may come to the scene and make a report.
As previously noted, it is important to document the scene of the accident as thoroughly as you can. Even if you were the one who hit the other car and were at fault, you want to make sure that the other driver cannot later make claims to damages that did not actually result from the collision. One of the most important things you can do is to take pictures and even videos of the damage done to each of the vehicles. Do not let the fact that the other driver is a police officer deter you from exercising your rights and thoroughly documenting the scene.
Potential Criminal Charges in Salt Lake City Car Accident Cases
Most of the time, car accidents are dealt with through the civil court system. Each person will file a claim with their respective insurance agency and the agencies will investigate, assign fault, and work out who owes what for what damages. There are certain instances, however, where further criminal charges may result from an accident. If an officer believes you committed a traffic violation or were driving recklessly, they can give you a ticket for those charges. If you are found to have been under the influence of alcohol when the accident occurred, you could be charged with DUI in Salt Lake City.
Perhaps the worst thing you can do after an accident is fleeing the scene without checking on the occupants of the other vehicle or exchanging the required information. Committing such a hit and run will automatically mean serious charges criminal in addition to whatever fines you might face. Even if the car you hit is a parked car, you need to make an attempt to locate the owner or leave a detailed note with your contact info.
Penalties for hit and run vary based on what kind of damage was caused. If you only caused vehicle damage, you will be charged with a class C misdemeanor, which can come with jail time of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $750. If you flee the scene after causing anyone physical injury, however, you can face a class A misdemeanor with penalties up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $1,500. Even more seriously, if you flee the scene of an accident after causing serious bodily injury or death, you will be charged with a third-degree felony and potential penalties can include jail time up to 5 years and $5,000 in fines. If you kill someone in a car accident, you also have the possibility of being charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Call Our Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Team If You Hit a Copy Car Today
Hitting a cop car might seem extra intimidating, but in reality you just need to follow the same protocol you would follow after any accident. If you fail to follow this protocol by leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging the required information or dealing with injuries you caused, serious criminal charges could follow. At Overson Law, PLLC our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you minimize the damage from any mistakes you may have made during or after an accident. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.