Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Accident Reports
If you've ever been in a car crash and thought it best not to call police, a lesson tonight from someone who learned the hard way why that's not a good idea. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- Every time we get on the road here in South Florida we run the risk of getting into an accident, but if you're ever tempted to not report a crash consider the consequences.
Danny Garcia, In car crash: "It was bad, it was bad, it was bad."
Twenty-five-year-old Danny Garcia walked away from an accident that wrecked his car, but he did not call authorities.
Danny Garcia: "It was a horrible mistake that I made. A horrible mistake."
Danny says the woman who ran a red light and t-boned his car begged him not to call police.
Danny Garcia: "Comes out crying, you know, 'I'm sorry! I didn't see the light.' She starts pleading that she doesn't have insurance, to not call the cops."
If he had reported it, Danny says officers would have discovered two children in the woman's car and...
Danny Garcia: "She was obviously intoxicated and I could tell she was intoxicated. I didn't want her to lose her kids, I was just really trying to be a nice guy, that's really what it was."
That faulty thinking put a possible drunk driver back behind the wheel with children in the car! It's something that didn't occur to the gullible young man at the time and then big surprise, she never did what she promised, and that was to pay for the damage to his car.
Danny Garcia: "I'm super frustrated, super super frustrated. I feel cheated. I feel lied to. I feel deceived."
Carmel Cafiero: "What if she had been in another accident where her children or someone else were hurt? Authorities say get into an accident the law is quite clear on your responsibilities."
Sgt. Mark Wysocky, Florida Highway Patrol: "The law says that you are supposed to report a crash in any apparent damage of at least $500."
The Florida Highway Patrol says not reporting a significant accident puts everyone else on the road at risk.
Sgt. Mark Wysocky, FHP: "They may be hiding something. They may have a suspended license. They may be wanted. You've just let them get away with something that they may go down the road, especially if the person was DUI, may go down the road and kill somebody else."
While it's impossible to determine an exact number it's believed there are tens of thousands of crashes that go unreported to police each year in Florida.
Sgt. Mark Wysocky, FHP: "We'll have people that will contact us after the fact and say, 'Hey, I can't get a hold of this person, he damaged my car and now I can't get a hold of him.'"
And there are also insurance issues.
Elianne Gonzalez, Insurance Information Institute: "If you are involved in an accident and you don't report to your insurance, you are taking a big risk."
Experts say claims could be denied because there is no police report to document what happened and innocent drivers can end up being sued by the person who actually caused the accident.
Danny Garcia: "If I could go back in time I would have never left the scene. I would just call the police."
If you fail to report an accident over the $500 threshold keep in mind you're not doing a favor you're breaking the law.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: