Skip to Main Content



Should You Call the Police After a Des Moines Car Accident?

Car accidents are usually traumatic. Many people are dazed and confused after being struck at an intersection or out on the highway. They might not know what to do. However, there are critical steps motorists should take, which can preserve their legal rights to compensation. One step is to call the police after an accident. Once notified, the police should send an officer to the scene to write up a traffic accident report. There are many benefits to having an officer come out to the scene, which our Des Moines car accident lawyer details in this article.

Iowa Requires that You Report Car Accidents

This is probably the clearest reason why you should call: Iowa requires it. Section 321.266 of the Iowa Code requires that drivers call the county sheriff or the nearest police officer to report any accident which resulted in bodily injuries or death. You don’t want to violate this law.

Further, anyone involved in an accident resulting in death, injury, or at least $1,500 in damage must file a written report with the Department of Transportation within 72 hours of the accident. However, you aren’t required to file if a police officer comes out and investigates the accident.

If you violate these provisions, you can face serious misdemeanor charges. It’s not worth taking that risk when you can simply call the police to report a crash.

An Officer Can Talk to Witnesses

Witnesses play an important role in many car accident cases. They can help us see how the accident happened, which lets lawyers and insurance adjusters identify the correct party at fault.

In Iowa, you can receive compensation from someone if they are at least partially at fault for the crash. But fault is often the source of dispute. For example, you might have been struck by a motorist running a red light at an intersection. However, the driver claims you were the one running a red light. Witnesses can help back up your story that your light was green and the other driver refused to yield.

Certainly, you can talk to witnesses as well following a crash. Remember to ask for what they saw and get their name and contact information. Our lawyers want to talk to them. But if you are in too much pain, a police officer can do the evidence collecting for you. This is just one more reason to call the police.

Insurers Like to See a Crash Report

This is an important piece of evidence in any car accident case. It helps establish:

  • Date and time of the accident
  • Location (where the accident happened)
  • Identities of all parties

If you don’t have a crash report, then insurers will become suspicious. This is particularly true if you are claiming injury in a hit-and-run accident. The insurer might assume you fell asleep and drove off the road or were distracted and crashed into a fire hydrant. They won’t pay any compensation to you, even from your uninsured motorist policy.

Winning compensation is hard without a crash report. You’ll need to independently establish all the facts in the report. And don’t be surprised if the other driver claims they weren’t anywhere near the scene of the accident. Calling out a police officer helps streamline any personal injury claim.

An Officer Can Perform a Field Sobriety Test and/or Chemical Test

You might be hurt by a drunk or high driver. In 2022 alone, 14,228 drivers in Iowa had their licenses revoked due to Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Hundreds if not thousands of accidents each year are caused by intoxicated motorists.

You can seek compensation if a drunk driver hits you, and you might even request punitive damages. You can strengthen your case by having an officer on the scene. This officer could ask the driver to participate in field sobriety tests. Tests include balancing on one leg or walking in a straight line. The officer is gauging the driver’s coordination.

The officer might also ask the driver to take a breathalyzer test, which measures alcohol concentration in the breath. If the driver blows a high number, they can be arrested and charged with OWI. We can also seek to introduce the results of the test in your car accident case.

A responding officer could also find evidence of drugs or alcohol in the car. For example, there might be a rolled joint on the dash or a bag of marijuana on the passenger’s seat. An open beer or bottle of wine could be resting within reach of the driver. This evidence can also help strengthen your car accident case.

Police Can Search for a Fleeing Motorist

Too many people are victimized by hit and run drivers. You should still call the police. In fact, it’s critical that you report a hit and run accident. You can protect the public from dangerous drivers. Share with the police any details you remember about the car or driver who hit you. They will alert the public.

Hit and run victims can often seek compensation from their own insurer. But you’ll definitely want a traffic accident report to show them. Without one, the insurance company might claim you were drunk and crashed on your own accord. A police report helps establish that an accident really did happen.

Speak with a Des Moines Car Accident Attorney at Our Firm

Reporting an accident to the police is the sensible thing to do after a crash. You will fulfill your duty under the law to report an accident, and you can help secure necessary evidence for use in your case.

Once you are done at the scene, call Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C. Our lawyers can help pull together the evidence you need to seek a favorable settlement. We offer a free consultation to anyone who was involved in a wreck. With offices in Waterloo and Iowa City, we can visit anyone who needs an attorney, if circumstances allow. Call us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. We are available 24/7 for our clients.