Should I talk to the police if they come to the scene?

If you have been involved in an auto accident in Texas, you may be required to call the police and report it under Texas law. There is certain information you are required to give a peace officer. Other statements are not required, and some can be used against you.

It is important to understand what you are required to do or say, and what you may want to avoid doing.

When to Report an Texas Car Accident to the Police

In Texas, drivers are required to report an auto accident to the police if the accident caused:

  • Apparent damage of $1,000 or more
  • An injury, or
  • A death

The peace officer is required to complete a crash report, which is filed with the Texas Department of Transportation.

A police crash report generally includes statements from drivers and passengers involved in the accident, as well bystanders and witnesses.

What You Are Required to Say to the Police After an Auto Accident in Texas

Police officers in Texas are required to complete a crash report. The officer usually includes any statements made by the drivers or passengers involved in the crash.

Crash reports are confidential, but they are available to those involved or affected directly by the accident (drivers, passengers, injured bystanders, insurance companies, vehicle owners). These statements can be used against you in an auto accident lawsuit.

Anything you say to a peace officer after a motor vehicle collision is likely to end up in the officer’s crash report. These reports and your statements can be used in a lawsuit, or a criminal prosecution if you violated traffic laws.

So it may be wise to say as little as possible.

You Must Produce Identifying Documents for a Peace Officer After an Auto Accident

Upon request, motorists involved in a crash must show the peace officer their:

  • Drivers license
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Proof of a current auto insurance

These same documents must be shown to other drivers involved in the accident.

The Laws in Texas for Drivers Suspected of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

Texas Auto Accidents and Sobriety Testing By the Police

If a peace officer suspects that a driver involved in an auto accident was driving under the influence, the officer may choose to administer field sobriety tests.

These may include:

  • Breathalyzer – Field test to measure alcohol content in the driver’s breath.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – Measures if drivers can smoothly follow a moving light with their eyes.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test – Officer sees if the driver can walk 9 steps, heel to toe, then pivot 180 degrees and walk back. Drivers wobbling or miscounting steps are suspected of being intoxicated.
  • One Leg Stand Test – Officer watches if the driver can stand and count to thirty with one foot raised 6 inches off the ground. Drivers who cannot balance or count accurately may be intoxicated.

The Right to Refuse a Field Sobriety Test in Texas      

After an auto accident, a police officer taking a crash report may believe one of the drivers involved was (and is) intoxicated.

In Texas, the driver is permitted to refuse to take a sobriety test at the scene of the accident. But that may have several negative consequences:

The officer may arrest the driver.
  • Refusing the test can be evidence that the driver was intoxicated. This might support the police officer’s probable cause to detain the driver.
The driver may be given a blood or breath test at the police station.
  • Drivers who refuse sobriety tests at the station can temporarily lose their driver’s licenses. The suspension may last anywhere between 90 days and two years.
The driver’s refusal to take the sobriety test may be offered in Court
  • A criminal prosecutor is permitted to tell the judge or jury that the driver refused to take the test.
  • An auto accident lawyer working for another driver or insurance company can also call the officer into court to testify that the driver would not take the field sobriety test.
  • The jury may believe that a driver refused the test because the driver was intoxicated and caused the accident.

Interacting with the Police After an Texas Auto Accident

After an auto accident, we may feel confused, or angry. The human response in the face of danger is to flee or prepare for a fight. Many of us lose our cool.

But even if you did nothing wrong, it is wise to be polite to the police. Staying calm and neutral is usually the best way to approach a problem or disagreement.

Be Polite, But Watch What You Say

Being polite does not mean you need to say much.

Even if you did nothing wrong, other drivers may lie. An insurance company’s lawyers may use the statements you made to the police (e.g. “the poor guy pulled out into traffic”) and suggest they show you thought you were at fault.

So it makes sense to be cautious about what you say after an auto accident, especially before you consult with a personal injury attorney who can explain your options under the law.

What to Say to the Police After an Auto Accident

Provide the peace officer with information required by Texas traffic laws.

If you make a statement about the accident (e.g., “I was stopped when the other driver hit me”), keep it simple, and stick to the facts without embellishment.

If you do not want to make a statement, you allowed to say:

Officer, I would prefer not to make any statements about the accident until I speak with my attorney.

Some officers may not like this, and get annoyed. But you are permitted to speak to an Texas auto accident lawyer before making statements to the police. So you may want to stay firm and remain silent.

Use your judgment, but know your rights. The best way to do that is to speak to an experienced Texas car accident attorney.  Call, email or text Justinian & Associates for a completely free consultation. Tell us your story, we’ll explain your options, with no obligation.