Recently one of my friends was involved in a bumper related collision during a rainy day. The collision resulted in no damage to either car. Would my friend at, this point, have been able to:

1. Drive away without legal ramifications (designated hit and run)

2. Drive away after no damage was agreed by drivers and information was exchanged.

After inspecting damage, the other person then called the police to file a report.

I learned in our drivers ED that the police do not need to be contacted for collisions resulting in 1000$ or less damage.**

Once the police come to file a report, they are also forced to designate one of the drivers as the cause of the collision and charge that person with a traffic violation (really anything possible).

Given that there was no damage and both drivers had exchanged information, could my friend have driven away before/after the police were called, thus dodging the fine that the police would be forced to give?


** May not be exact/reliable or misinterpreted.

This is in Wisconsin.

  • No visible damage doesn't mean something internal didn't get busted, my mom had a fender bender that resulted in a blocked steering column. – ratchet freak Nov 18 '15 at 13:04
  • 2
    You assert that if police write a report on an accident that they are "forced" to charge a person with a traffic violation. I have never heard of that, and have seen many examples to the contrary. What is the basis of your assertion? – feetwet Nov 18 '15 at 16:02
  • @feetwet, I have seen that in some jurisdiction. It's not the case in most. It use to be the case in Tucson, but they stopped doing it. It was not a "fine", but some sort of "civil" ticket that after I was satisfied with the results, that I could say that the other party had done no harm (or repaid any damages). If I did not, then the other party had to pay some fee. Don't remember what it was, but it does help keep the court actions down I believe. – Jdahern Nov 18 '15 at 16:20
  • @feetwet A first hand account. The police officer explicitly stated that one driver had to be held at fault and then issued a ticket. He, however, stated that my friend should be able to get the ticket revoked by going to the required court attendance date. – Bennett Yeo Nov 18 '15 at 21:13
  • Cross-link: Germany: What is the charge for minor hit and run? – WBT Mar 28 '16 at 21:22
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Some states allow you to just exchange information and then each party files their own accident report with the police and the DOT within an allowed amount of time, so long as the cars are only minimally damaged and nobody is hurt. If one party wants the police there, it is standard to wait. If both decide it not necessary, it is fine to leave. Either way, leaving or staying does not give rise to the avoidance of a finding of fault against one party or another. The state of Wisconsin is a Tort State (as opposed to a no-fault state). These are insurance related issues as opposed to legal issues, but utterly intertwined. The accident reports filed by each party, any police reports and other relevant data will be submitted to the DMV and the insurance, and the insurance companies will assign fault if the DMV or police haven't, either by agreement or inter-company arbitration.

Relating to your question, however, you will see the processes required HERE. In part, it states the following:

REPORTING AN ACCIDENT TO THE WISCONSIN DOT In some situations, you must report an accident to the Wisconsin Police. If the police were unable to file an accident report, you must complete and submit a Driver Accident Report within 10 days of an accident, if any of the following apply:

  • The accident caused injury or death.
  • Property damage to at least one person's property amounted to $1,000 or more.
  • Damage to government property, other than vehicles, amounted to $200 or more.

If you fail to report an accident to the Wisconsin DOT, you may have your license suspended. In the event that another driver offers to pay for damages and asks you not to report an accident, you are still required to file the report in any of the situations outlined above.

Your report must include detailed and current information regarding your insurance coverage. The DOT will cross-check this information with the insurance company shown on the report. If you did not have liability insurance when the accident occurred and were unable to provide restitution for injuries or damages sustained due to your negligence, your driving privileges will be suspended. You will be required to file proof of future financial responsibility (SR-22) in order to have your driving privileges reinstated.

Make a copy of the accident report form for your personal records. You can mail the original directly to: Traffic Accident Section, Wisconsin Department Of Transportation, Po Box 7919, Madison, WI 53707-7919

As you can see, from your interpretation/description, you were not technically required to deal with the police, but you were required to exchange information, assess and give aid to the extent possible to the other driver, and so if the other called for emergency intervention it may be the other driver disagreed w/ one of these assessments (damage or injury).**

If you did exchange information, took photos, etc., you are probably ok. If not, certainly that will be problematic.

**I know you are saying there was no damage or injury. However, while you are saying this is what the other driver acquiesced to, it may be that it is not the case either afterward or he/she wanted to avoid (potentially dangerous) interaction at the scene. That said, while you can clearly see the situations by which the police are necessitated, you also indicate the other driver called the police. In that case, you probably should have stayed once you were alerted to that fact, as leaving puts you in the precarious position of only the other driver's side being documented by the police, and your absence may lead the officer to find you at fault or with something to hide.

The officer will file a report, either way, of which you must get a copy. If he disagrees with your assessment of the damage/injury and feels you left in the face of those situations proscribed, you will know because you will be arrested or summoned for leaving the scene. That is to be determined by the reporting officer.

In the future, if there is an accident and one driver explicitly states the police have been called, you should wait. You don't have to say anything at all to the officer, if you don't want to. In most states, all you need to do is give the officer your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. It always looks worse to leave the scene knowing they are coming, since it may lead to a determination that it was illegal to do so. Whereas, no additional harm can come from remaining present.

So far, I cannot find a state statute there whereby it is explicitly illegal to leave once one driver calls for emergency assistance. If I find this I will amend my answer and cite it.

  • So while my friend is not legally required to stay on scene, given that my friend is completely certain he caused the collision, would my friend be able to dodge the resulting police ticket that is issued with the police report by leaving before the police come? – Bennett Yeo Nov 18 '15 at 21:11
  • no. If the police were called, they are (1) going to assume something is up that he took off when he was told the police were on the way; (2) a report still needs to be filed whereby a ticket can still issue based on driver and /or witness statements. More importantly, when it is determined that he's at fault, he will be surcharged by the insurance. This means approximately double the current rate for 3-5 years. That is the real hit to the pocket book...not the ticket. – gracey209 Nov 18 '15 at 21:19
  • He will probably get the ticket since he left where if he stayed the cop would probably just have found him at fault in the police report but not bothered with he ticket. They usually don't bc the surcharge is so much. But in a case where they don't wait, they will probable be ticketed bc the cop is going to assume he was trying to dodge an OUI or had something illegal in the car or whatever. Not only that, but it is not clear there was no reason for a cop. It is his opinion, but the other driver obviously did not agree with that assessment. – gracey209 Nov 18 '15 at 21:22

Would my friend at, this point, have been able to: 1. Drive away without legal ramifications (designated hit and run)

Wisconsin law 346.67(1) says:

The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident shall reasonably investigate what was struck and if the operator knows or has reason to know that the accident resulted in injury or death of a person or in damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person, the operator shall stop the vehicle he or she is operating as close to the scene of the accident as possible and remain at the scene of the accident until the operator has done all of the following:
(a) The operator shall give his or her name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving to the person struck or to the operator or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with; and
(b) The operator shall, upon request and if available, exhibit his or her operator's license to the person struck or to the operator or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with; and
(c) The operator shall render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident, including transporting, or making arrangements to transport the person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that medical or surgical treatment is necessary or if requested by the injured person.

Violation of this law is punishable by up to 6 months in jail plus a fine even if nobody was injured (and it becomes a felony if someone was injured) so you should probably err on the side of not leaving too early.

You must first "reasonably investigate". If both drivers agree that there was no damage or injuries, it would probably be legal for you to drive away at that point. If there was damage to the vehicles - even a paint scratch - but it was less than $1000, you would have to exchange information, but would not have to report it to the police.

The police are NOT required to issue a ticket, at least according to Wisconsin law. I had one accident where I slid off the road in icy conditions and did more than $1000 damage to my car (plus struck a utility box) and had to report it, and the responding officer declined to issue a ticket even though he said he could have. I suppose it's possible that a police department may have a policy requiring them to issue a ticket, though.

And leaving the scene, even when it's legal to do so, doesn't mean you won't see the police later. I had another accident where I struck a parked car and did minor damage and left a note, and the owner of that car decided to report it anyway. I was in high school at the time, and the police later pulled me out of class to talk to me.

A couple relevant real-life experiences:

As a pedestrian crossing the street, I was hit by a speeding car, broke the windshield with my body and flew up on top of the car before returning to terra firma. The driver stopped, yelled at me, then drove off before the police came (another driver had called). Concerned about the expense, I declined the ambulance ride to a hospital for emergency treatment. (I realized later this was not a great choice but it would have been expensive and in this particular case I did get lucky with only relatively minor injuries). Even though the police asked me some questions and took notes, I could not get a police report or even a police report number, not even later when some injuries turned out to be a bit more severe than initially assessed (adrenaline makes a difference!) The police just did not care. Any attempt to request a report/number was wasting their time. The police are too busy with more important things. (It may be a different story in a small town).

On another occasion, I was involved in a relatively minor two-car collision with no injuries. Both drivers easily got the cars out of the way of traffic and exchanged license/insurance information, and a bunch of photos were taken. The photos were very helpful in dealing with the insurance companies. No police were called nor were any needed (e.g. for traffic control or anything else).

If there’s no damage and no injuries, take a bunch of photos as evidence of that, exchange information, and don’t worry about needing to call the police. If it’s a decent option, you can even take out a voice recorder and get the drivers to make a verbal account of what happened and assessing the damage.

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