Examining the Effects of New Clark County Sheriff Policy on Auto Crashes

Posted by Scott A. Staples | May 05, 2016 | 0 Comments

It may seem like only your car is hurt in a minor accident, but after the adrenaline settles — you could discover injuries requiring care for yourself. The new Clark County Sherriff policy on auto crashes does not prevent you from filing a police report.

In areas patrolled by the Clark County Sheriff's Office, the odds of having a deputy respond to an auto collision just went way down.

According to an article published in The Columbian on April 19, 2016, the Clark County Sheriff's Office will no longer respond to non-injury vehicle crashes that aren't blocking traffic. A shortage of personnel and a seasonal spike in 911 calls is what led to the reevaluation of patrol deputies' priorities. Deputies will continue to respond to crashes that involve a driver who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a driver without a valid license, crashes involving a disturbance between the parties, if a vehicle is blocking the roadway, or if damage to public property is involved.

…most importantly, in many cases, when the adrenaline is pumping and optimism is high, crash victims don't feel like they're injured, or at least feel that what they're experiencing in terms of pain at the scene isn't worthy of an emergency response.”

The Vancouver Police Department also has a similar policy.

Our firm handles hundreds of auto crash claims every year, and based on our experience this policy change is likely going to have broad affect. That's because in a large number of crash cases that we see, none of the factors that might now draw a police response are present. Maybe most importantly, in many cases, when the adrenaline is pumping and optimism is high, crash victims don't feel like they're injured, or at least feel that what they're experiencing in terms of pain at the scene isn't worthy of an emergency response. It isn't until an hour or several hours later- after the parties have gone their separate ways- that the true extent of the injuries becomes apparent.

Police Reports are Very Helpful Later On

The reduction in police presence at crash scenes, and the corresponding reduction in police reports filed regarding crashes, may have some significant consequences for and require increased vigilance by people involved in such crashes. Police reports are often the most helpful resource we have for determining the contact information of the involved parties and witnesses, as well as insurance information. While officers arriving on scene are usually careful to record all of this critical information, sometimes the frazzled participants miss key details, or get no information at all. Officer descriptions of vehicle damage and participant behavior, as well as citations handed out, are often key pieces of information that lead to insurers for at-fault drivers admitting liability.

Because the Sheriff's Office will be coming out less often, it's now all the more important for drivers involved in collisions to be thorough in collecting information and taking photos at the scene of a crash. Here's some tips to help in that regard:

  • Almost everyone has a smart phone now- use it. Instead of relying on sometimes bad penmanship, snap photos of the other driver's license, license plate, and insurance documents. Ask witnesses if you can take photos of their licenses or other ID's as well. If they decline, make a voice or text note immediately on your phone in some manner that will allow you to save it and retrieve it later.
  • Taking a photo of the other vehicle's registration is also a good idea. The other driver may not own the vehicle, and later you may well need to know who the owner is.
  • Take photos of how the vehicles were positioned immediately after the collision, and of any damage to either vehicle. This includes the vehicle interior if the seat back was broken, contents were flung about the car, etc. Take at least one photo at a far enough distance that the whole vehicle of the other driver is visible, so later on the make and model of the vehicle can be determined.
  • As soon as possible after the crash, complete a collision report (get one at that link).

We're in business because insurance companies often fight tooth and nail on claims that the involved drivers think initially are very straightforward. Don't assume at the scene that later on everyone will be cooperative and things will work out like they should. It usually doesn't need to take forever, but at the same time don't rush the process at the expense of getting complete information at the scene of a crash. Later, you'll be glad you did.

About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012). Scott has volunteered time for the past several years at the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Housing Justice Project. He has previously served on the new member and membership committees for the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), and has acted as chair and co-chair of the WSAJ Clark County Roundtable. He is a member of the Washington and Oregon State Bar Associations, WSAJ and OTLA (state trial lawyer organizations), and is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Washington and Oregon. Scott was born and raised in Vancouver, attending Vancouver public schools and graduating from Hudson's Bay High School. He enjoys playing recreational basketball and softball, skiing, and spending time with his wife and three children.


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