Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Minor crash in Philly? Expect more hassles now that cops won't come

To save officers' time, Philly police won't respond to the scene of minor crashes anymore. The result could be more trouble collecting damage claims if it makes it easier for those who cause crashes to deny responsibility - which is already too easy.

Minor crash in Philly? Expect more hassles now that cops won't come

Given the state of the city's finances, this new police policy reported by my colleague Troy Graham was hardly surprising: Starting May 3, Philadelphia police won't respond to the scene of minor traffic accidents.

The good news - if there was any - was that the police understand that some crash scenes are contentious. "We realize we'll have to go to some of these if the two people don't get along and don't agree to exchange information," Lt. Frank Vanore told Graham. But in other cases, the best the city will offer will be a report filed at the nearest police station, in person or by phone and presumably one-sided.

Vanore said that should be enough to deal with insurers, and if that's your only option after a crash, by all means take it.

But for motorists who want as few post-accident hassles as possible, not having a police report from the scene might have some surprising and disturbing consequences.

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I wrote in January about an Elkins Park couple who faced one such consequence: Their insurance company, Geico, refused for weeks to honor a claim against a man whose car rear-ended theirs - also a Geico policyholder. And that happened even though the man had politely provided his insurance information at the scene of the crash.

The reason? After the fact, the young man and his family simply refused to acknowledge responsibility. Geico said it called them 18 times and sent nine letters (one by certified mail), but until I started inquiring about the case, the company's position seemed to be that Richard and Cindy Taubman were just out of luck.

I can't predict all the consequences of the new Philadelphia policy. But without the independent corroboration provided by a police report taken at the scene, one result seems clear: It will be easier for those who cause minor crashes to dodge responsibility.

That can't be a good thing.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

Reach Jeff at jgelles@phillynews.com.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
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