As part of an effort to address budget challenges, the Los Angeles Police Department is downsizing. According to reports, this is part of a “broad reorganization aimed at preserving patrol and community engagement functions.”
What may not be preserved is the LAPD’s traditional role in responding to traffic crashes. Under the reorganization plan, people who suffer minor injuries in crashes, including hit-and-runs, should file an online police report.
This could make the process of filing a claim somewhat more challenging. California is a “fault state,” as opposed to a “no fault” state, when it comes to car crashes. A person who suffers losses or injuries because of another driver’s negligence is expected to make a claim against that driver.
With the police to take accident reports, the process of determining preliminary fault was relatively straightforward. You would wait for the police to tell you who they thought was at fault.
The fact that police assigned fault to one driver is not the end of the matter. In a court, the police officer’s determination of fault is simply evidence on one side’s favor. However, it is compelling evidence in many cases.
If the LAPD does stop responding to car crashes, that evidence will be missing. What should it be replaced with?
Should you get a dashcam?
One thing that might help determine fault, at least preliminarily, would be dashcam footage of the crash or its aftermath. This could give clear evidence of how the crash occurred or what things looked like immediately after the crash occurred. Even if you turned on your dashcam right after a crash, it could provide useful indications of fault.
Of course, most people don’t have dashcams unless they drive taxis or for ride-hailing services.
That said, there is evidence that can be gathered after any crash. The first thing you should do is make sure any injured people get the medical treatment they need. You should also avoid discussing fault with the others on the scene.
Once you are in a safe position, gather evidence such as:
- The contact information of the other driver and any passenger-witnesses
- The insurance information of the other driver
- Photos of the wreck and all damage to vehicles
- A description of any obvious injuries
- A description or diagram of how the accident occurred
- Anything the other driver or witnesses may have said about fault
Not every driver will need a dashcam now that the LAPD is reducing its involvement in car crashes. You can gather most of the same evidence with your cellphone camera and a paper and pencil. Still, it might make traffic safer if most people had dashcams with which to record bad drivers.