Speak Up! - View Question #17054
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Question: I recently got in an accident where I hit a car from behind and caused minor damage. No police report or insurance information was exchanged. A week later he said it was going to be $1,000 and he took pictures of my car and tried to file a police report. Was it legal for him to take pictures and file police report a week after the accident?
Answer: The fact that you hit the other driver from behind makes you liable for all of his damages. Arizona law requires that you keep enough space between you and cars in front of you on the road to allow time for a safe stop in case of an emergency, such as someone slamming on his brakes (A.R.S. §28-701). Additionally, you could be found guilty of leaving the scene of a property-damage accident, a misdemeanor offense that could result in fines, possible jail time, and up to a one-year license suspension (A.R.S. §28-662).
Many police agencies will not take a delayed police report on a civil matter like a minor traffic accident. However, some will. There is nothing illegal about filing a report late. The driver of the car that was hit can also file an accident report with his or her insurance agent, and the agent may pursue a civil lawsuit to collect for the damages. He could make a claim against your insurance too. The driver can also file a claim himself through small claims court, or can file a civil suit in Superior Court. If he wins, he can also ask the court to order that you pay all his court costs and attorney fees.
A person may legally photograph a car involved in the traffic accident, though there could be an argument made that that person committed criminal trespass to do it. If the car was outside, in plain view of the public, then there is no problem with the photographs at all. If the photos were taken on your property and you had either previously told the person he was not allowed there, or if you asked him to leave on that day and he didn't, then it could be a trespass. However, no charge would likely be filed under these circumstances. Even if the photos were taken during a criminal trespass, they could still be used against you in any civil suit arising from the accident. If you have concerns about that, please speak with an attorney more familiar with the specific facts of your case. You may need a lawyer anyway, for the reasons listed above.