Close-up of police car and sirens.

Policing in British Columbia and The Role of Police After a Car Accident

Police respond to thousands of incidents daily. On any given day, nearly 3,400 calls are made to E-Comm, which dispatches the 33 police department after an accident in 24 BC cities, towns and districts.


Police services in BC were provided by 74 municipalities, by an independent police force in 12 municipalities and by RCMP in 62 municipalities in 2012, with the remainder of the policed by the RCMP through the provincial police force.


Policing in BC

Under the Police Act, a municipality must assume responsibility for its police services when its population reaches 5,000 people. Larger municipalities may form their own force, contract with an existing independent police department, or contract with the provincial government for Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) municipal police services.

The Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) has a mandate to reduce harm on BC roadways. The IRSU is comprised of over 100 traffic enforcement officers from the RCMP and independent municipal police. Measures to increase safety include providing traffic enforcement high collision areas and focusing on high risk driving behaviours which contribute to most accidents on the roadways.


The Role of Police After an Accident

When an accident occurs, the police are called to the scene and have a multitude of responsibilities there. As part of their duties, the police must assess the safety of the situation and determine if further assistance needs to be called, assist injured parties, take witness statements, lay any charges deemed appropriate and prepare the accident report. These are discussed briefly below.


1. Assess the Accident

The first officer at the accident scene is responsible for assessing the accident. He or she must ensure that the area is safe and protect the injured parties and any bystanders.

If the collision involves injured parties the officer’s duty will be to call any emergency responders and any additional officers required. The officer will also inspect the vehicles and he or she may measure distances and draw a diagram for the police accident report.

The officer is required to take notes as part of the investigation. However, the notes taken in an emergency may be lacking in detail.

In assessing the accident, the police are not obliged to take photos of the accident scene as evidence for your potential liability claim or provide you with the other party’s name or insurance information if charges are pending. The officer will determine what information can be provided and what actions are warranted as part of the investigation.


2. Assist Injured Parties

The officer who attends the scene will be responsible for prioritizing which injured parties require immediate assistance. 


3. Take Witness Statements

The police will take a statement from you and any other parties involved in the collision.

The police will typically take statements from the witnesses, but not always. The appeal of Ali v. Glover, 2016 BCCA 446 was a case, for example, where two witnesses saw the collision and the police officer spoke with them, but took no statements. Both drivers maintained they had been struck by the other’s vehicle when it swerved into “their” lane.

The officer testified to having no recollection of what was said and she made no note of it at the time. An electronic synopsis the officer prepared some time later was found to be unreliable evidence by the judge.

At the conclusion of the trial, the judges determined there was an error in the evidence presented in the first hearing, but the appeal was nevertheless dismissed. There were, however, reductions made in the cost of future care previously awarded to the plaintiff.


4. Lay Any Appropriate Traffic or Criminal Charges

The attending officer has the authority to lay charges under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code of Canada. The officer may be required to substantiate the evidence for the charges if the charge is challenged in court.

While the police can assist in determining fault for the accident, it is the insurers or subsequently the court that determine fault according to established fault assessment guidelines.


5. Prepare the POLICE ACCIDENT REPORT

Police officers who attend the accident are required to complete a written report of the accident in the form established by Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and forward it to ICBC within 10 days of the accident. The police report is an important document that can be relied upon by ICBC, independent insurer or court of law as part of establishing liability for the accident and any injuries you have suffered. 


Your Interaction with Police

If you are not getting help with an assessment of your injuries soon after the police arrive, you will need to inform the attending officer. If you don’t communicate your injuries and request to have them evaluated, the police may not be aware of them or record them.

If you are required to provide a statement to the police, you must be as accurate as possible about the accident details and any injuries you may have suffered. You will also want to ensure that your personal observations are correctly written into the record as the police report may be used as evidence in your personal injury case. You can ask the officer to read your statement back to you for accuracy before signing it.

You can notify the officer of any witnesses and ask that a witness statement be taken.

You can request that the officer advise you of any charges established at the collision site. If you or the other party has been charged with any offence, then you may be best off to seek legal advice immediately.

Before leaving the accident scene, it is important to obtain the officer’s full name, badge number, station location and occurrence number that will identify the officer’s report.


Contact Kenneth Cristall Law Corporation, Vancouver Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured in a car accident, a lawyer in Vancouver, Burnaby, Langley, Coquitlam, Surrey, New Westminster or Richmond from Kenneth Cristall Law Corporation can protect your interests legally. We can assist you with your Part 7 accident benefits claim or personal injury lawsuit if police officer attended the accident scene or not and if the police accident report is comprehensive and completely accurate or not. The police accident report is an important document, but it is not the only evidence in a car accident injury claim. Call us for legal help to get compensation for your injuries at 604-654-2250.

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