It Pays To Be Your Own Accident Investigator

DENVER (CBS4) – Slick, snowy driving conditions are the a leading cause of car crashes. Aurora Police Department’s traffic unit attributes the increase in crashes to people driving too fast and following too closely for the conditions. When the number of crashes occurring becomes overwhelming a locality will go on what’s called accident alert.

“That means there are too many crashes for us to be able to respond to and investigate them all,” said Sgt. Chris Carleton with Aurora Police Department’s Traffic Unit.

Officers will only respond to crashes involving injuries, impaired drivers, or disabled vehicles. In crashes where there are no injuries and the cars can be moved, you are on your own.

“They need to get the vehicles off the road, go to a safe place. And once they’re there, exchange information with the other parties involved in the crash,” Carleton explained.

He recommends exchanging driver’s license information as well as registration and insurance specifics.

And insurance agent Pamela Buckland says that there’s an app for that.

“You can report a claim right from your phone,” Buckland said while she showed CBS4 the app.

State Farm Insurance has developed an app called Pocket Agent. It walks you through exactly how to be your own accident investigator, including providing a place for you to take down the date and time of the crash, the damage to your vehicle and make a diagram of the scene.

The app also includes a photo section which allows you to take pictures of the scene and add it right to the claim. This is all information you can gather even without the app, just by using the camera on a smartphone and taking notes.

“The more you can document yourself, the more in control you are of what information you’re able to provide to your insurance carrier,” Buckland explained.

State Farm's Pocket Agent app (credit: CBS)

State Farm’s Pocket Agent app (credit: CBS)

“A gentleman had swiped the rear of the car here on Broadway…with his vehicle,” Khyyam Cooper told CBS4.

Khyyam Cooper’s wife was driving when her car was hit. The driver took off, but by acting as her own investigator she was able to solve the case.

“The witness came up and said ‘Hey, by the way, I saw what happened,’ ” Cooper said.

The witness not only saw what happened, she knew who the driver was. Buckland says that the information you can gather at the scene can make the difference between getting a claim approved or denied.

“We advise that you don’t admit liability… you just share the facts,” Buckland said.

“Unfortunately because some folks take off after they decide to go off someplace and exchange information, the best thing might be to take a picture of the license plate on the other vehicle and then go ahead and move off to a safe position,” Carleton added.

Sgt. Carleton said that the best thing that everyone can do is slow down when the weather is bad. He says that’s the best way to not get in an accident in the first place.

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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