A client of mine has kindly invited me to tell her story so that others who find themselves in the same situation might think twice about calling the police immediately after a motor vehicle collision.
My client was in her vehicle, stationary at traffic lights, when a vehicle hit her from behind causing significant damage to her car. Unfortunately due to her financial circumstances at the time, she had not renewed her own car insurance policy so she was very relieved when the other driver gave her his insurance company’s details. However, he also suggested to her that he would prefer not to claim through his insurance company and offered her $1,000 in cash on the spot to cover her damage.
My client decided she would not take the $1,000 cash as she wasn’t sure it would cover the full cost of repairs to her car. She felt it would be more sensible to have him claim on his insurance, despite his reluctance to do so.
She had noticed a smell of alcohol on his breath. Although he was not badly affected by alcohol, out of concern for others she returned to her car and immediately called the police. As it happened the police were nearby and arrived at the scene within minutes. They alco-tested the driver and found he was positive for alcohol.
Later at the police station he blew .15 grams of alcohol per hundred millilitres of blood. His insurance policy had a clause in it that said if he was over .08 grams his policy of insurance is void. The guy turned out to be penniless so there was no point in my client taking any proceedings against him for the damage to her vehicle.
So by her own conduct of calling the police, my client had eliminated the only party (his insurance company) that had the ability to pay for the damage to her car. She ended up wearing all the cost of that damage herself.
This makes you think if you do not have your own comprehensive insurance policy to cover damage to your vehicle, then you would think twice about calling the police in circumstances where you suspect alcohol might have played a part.
Secondly, if someone offers you cash at the collision scene you should consider taking it but tell them, or write a receipt for it and note on the receipt, that the money received is ‘part payment of the cost of the actual damage to your vehicle should the cost to repair it exceed the amount of the cash payment’.
So if you feel you must call the police at the scene of a motor vehicle collision, and I can see that you might if the other driver is obviously intoxicated, then at least take the cash before you call the police.
CAUTION: This article contains general information of public interest only and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal advice specific to the reader’s personal circumstances. Should you have a legal matter, please seek professional advice before acting or relying on this content.