After a traffic crash, police reports can be a source of credibility that can strengthen your insurance claim. A police accident report provides an objective view of a collision. The reporting law enforcement officer documents the events that led to the accident, takes witness testimony and includes a drawn diagram of the crash scene. They include many more details that can help prove the other driver involved in the vehicle crash was negligent, such as their personal opinion and observations as the crash site.
Police reports can paint a picture of the events that took place in an automobile accident, regardless of either drivers’ perspective on the collision. The purpose of an accident report is to show a clear view of the events that led up to the motor vehicle crash and to avoid a drawn-out process when comparing the different versions of the collision provided by the drivers involved.
Basically, a collision report is a third-party witness of a car crash. The officer who created the report was most likely not on scene and is unable to provide witness testimony.
What Types of Personal Injury Accidents Should Have a Police Report Filed?
When you’re involved in an auto accident, or another type of serious personal injury accident that requires medical attention, make sure that a traffic crash report has been filed with law enforcement.
Police reports are filled out by law enforcement officers for all types of serious personal injury accidents, including:
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bike accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Hit-and-run accidents
- Rideshare accidents
- Bus accidents
- Passenger vehicle accidents
While it may seem clear to you who was to blame for a motorcycle accident or semi-truck accident, you must provide evidence that proves the other driver was negligent. A crash report form can help because it contains unbiased information that can prove injuries and damage to property occurred, and might even make it clear that the other driver was responsible for the collision.
What are the Benefits of Having a Crash Report When You File an Insurance Claim?
A crash report is an important document to have if you’re filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. When you file an auto insurance claim a collision report can be used to:
- Prove your injuries occurred as a direct result of the accident
- Prove vehicle damage occurred as a direct result of the accident
- Provide proof of an accident’s occurrence
- Provide witness statements
- Show the negligent actions that caused the accident and your resulting injuries and property damage
How is a Police Report Created?
A police report is filled out by a law enforcement officer that responds to the scene of an accident. They will document any evidence found at the scene, such as skid marks in the road, any injuries sustained by all parties involved, vehicle damage, anything that may have contributed to the crash, witness statements, and more. Once the officer has completed the report, they will submit it for review. The police officer’s superiors must first review and approve the report before it can be filed and made available to all parties involved in the motor vehicle crash.
How long it can take to file a police report and when it will be available will vary from agency to agency.
What is in a Police Crash Report?
When a police officer fills out a report, they will diligently document details of the crash, to provide a clear picture of what happened.
Auto accident reports often include:
- The names and contact information all for all parties involved in the motor vehicle crash, including phone numbers and current addresses
- Time, date, and location of the auto accident
- Vehicle make and model and VIN
- License plate numbers
- Insurance information
- Driver’s license numbers
- Registration information
- A drawn diagram of the car crash site, including the location and path of each vehicle and the point of impact
- Anything that may have contributed to the crash, including inclement weather, road closures, traffic jams, faulty traffic lights, etc.
- A description of any injuries sustained in the accident
- A description of vehicle damage and other types of personal property damage (laptop, cell phone)
- Crash narrative-a summary of the police officer’s accident investigation findings detailing how and why the accident occurred and which motorist they believed was negligent
- Witness statements and contact information
- Any statements provided by drivers and passengers
- Any citations issued for traffic violations
File a Police Report Online
If the police did not respond to the scene of the accident, you may need to file a police report online. Law enforcement often only respond to a car crash if injuries or a fatality are involved or a crime was committed, such as a driver operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The rules and requirements for filing a police report online will vary from city to city and state to state. Filing a police report online after an auto accident is mainly done for insurance purposes. You should not file a police report online if you suffered injuries and vehicle damage exceeding $1,000. Instead, contact your local police department directly and request to speak with an officer.
Filing a crash report online is also commonly done by motorists involved in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in no injuries.
If you were involved in an auto accident and need to file a police report but your local law enforcement agency does not have an online option, you will need to file a report in person.
What Do You Do If You Get Into a Vehicle Accident?
When you’re involved in a car crash, the adrenaline may be flowing, you may feel disoriented, overwhelmed, and in shock. It can take several moments for you to gather your bearings. However, there are some important steps you must take as soon as possible after a collision.
- The steps you take following an accident can depend on the specific circumstances. For example, if you were involved in a truck accident or motorcycle accident, you may be severely injured and unable to gather evidence or exchange information. In which case, contact 911 immediately and wait for help to arrive.
- If you’re able to, move your vehicle out of the road to prevent another accident and to ensure your safety.
- Assess your condition and the condition of the other vehicle occupants. If you or someone else in the vehicle is injured you must contact 911. When you speak with a dispatcher, give them the details of your injuries or the injuries sustained by passengers.
- If you’re able to get out of your vehicle and walk around, document the accident scene using the camera on your phone. Take photos of everything, from a variety of angles. Include photos of vehicle damage, debris on the road, your injuries, injuries sustained by passengers, missing traffic signs, etc.
- Write down any details, such as what events led up to the accident, anything the other driver did or said, the speed you were going and the speed you believed the other car was traveling. Memories can fade quickly, so it’s important to document accident details as soon as possible.
- If the other driver is intoxicated or acting aggressively, avoid any contact. If the driver is calm, you can exchange insurance information at that time.
- Speak with law enforcement. When you talk to an officer, only provide the facts. Never admit fault, never apologize. If the officer asks if you’re injured, even if you have no visible injuries and you feel fine, say you don’t know. Some types of injuries do not present symptoms until several hours or days following a crash. Once the officer has completed the police report they will give you a report number, which you will use when you request a final copy.
- Contact an auto accident attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can guide you through this process, help you report the accident to your auto insurance provider, file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, and negotiate with the claims adjuster to help you recover compensation for accident-related damages.
Is a Police Report Necessary Even if no one was Hurt?
Having the police respond to the scene can prevent a situation from escalating if the other driver involved is acting aggressively, but you may not always need to contact police for a motor vehicle crash.
In many states, you’re only required to contact the police if someone involved in the accident sustained injuries or there is vehicle damage exceeding $1,000. If you were involved in a simple personal injury fender bender, contacting the police may not be necessary.
If you’re not sure whether you should contact the police for your car accident, do so. The dispatcher can determine if law enforcement is needed at the scene. If no injuries or significant property damage is involved, police will often decline to respond.
Why is a Police Report Critical?
If you plan to pursue compensation for your auto accident, you must get a copy of your traffic report. A police report contains valuable information that can help prove the other driver was negligent and your vehicle damage and injuries were a direct result of the accident.
An insurance company will use any excuse to deny a claim. They may assert that your injuries are not as severe as you say they are or that you were injured at some point after the accident. A claims adjuster can also allege that the damage to your vehicle occurred before or after the accident.
Traffic crash reports are so important to your claim because they can include witness statements detailing how the accident occurred and the actions of each driver, as well as the police officer’s opinion regarding why and how the accident took place and which driver they believed was negligent.
Since incident accident reports contain information from unbiased sources, it can help strengthen your claim for compensation.
Is it a Crime to File a False Police Report?
Yes. The penalties for filing a false police report will vary by state. However, in most states, filing a false police report is a misdemeanor. The consequences of filing a false police report can be devastating.
There may be charges added to the offense, including:
- Making false statements to a police officer
- Obstruction of justice
If convicted of filing a false police report, a person may be faced with jail time, fines, and probation.
Are Accident Reports Public Record?
Each state has its own law that’s modeled after the federal Freedom of Information Act, allowing the public to obtain government documents. Police reports are subject to state public records laws. After a determined period of time, these records are often released to the public. However, certain information, such as addresses, vehicle information, etc. may be redacted, to protect the privacy of the parties involved.
Who Can Get a Copy of My Auto Accident Report?
Following an auto accident, people who are eligible to receive an unredacted accident report often include:
- All parties involved in the crash
- Registered vehicle owners
- Insurance companies
- Personal injury attorneys
- The parent or legal guardian of a minor involved in the accident
How to Get a Copy of a Police Report
Obtaining a copy of your police report will vary by police agency and state laws. In some states, you must request a copy of your report from the:
- Local police department
- Sheriff’s Office
- Highway Patrol
How to request a crash report can depend on state laws and where your accident occurred. Typically, in smaller cities, you will request your police collision report from the sheriff’s department. On highways and in rural areas, you would request a copy of your incident report from the highway patrol.
Once you’ve determined which agency to request your police report from, you’ll need to contact the agency directly to learn what your options are.
Many law enforcement agencies offer the following request options:
- Request in person
- Request by mail
- Request your police report online through the department’s portal or a third-party company
Unfortunately, most of these methods are not only costly, but due to the high volume of requests, you may end up waiting several weeks or months for your police report.
AccidentReports.com offers a simpler, faster, hassle-free way to get a copy of your accident report online. By searching the site’s crash report information center, you can easily locate and obtain a copy of your collision report, as soon as it’s available.
How is a Police Report Used During a Car Accident Settlement or Lawsuit?
In civil cases, police reports are not admissible. Typically, most courts consider police reports as inadmissible hearsay. The police officer who responded to the accident and filled out the police report can testify in court, but the record itself cannot be used as evidence.
In terms of insurance claims, accident reports are commonly used as evidence. In fact, claims adjusters will often rely on the information and evidence in a report to determine which party was negligent and whether to deny your claim or offer a settlement.
While you can still file an insurance claim without a police collision report, submitting the crash report can significantly help your claim if you were involved in an accident with a negligent driver.
When Do Accident Reports Become Available to Search and Order?
This often varies by state and law enforcement agency. In many cases, after an accident, your traffic report will be available within 5-10 business days. Redacted versions are typically available to search after 30-60 days. However, if the automobile accident involved a fatality or a crime, the car crash report may be unavailable to the public.
Do You Need a Police Report to File an Insurance Claim?
You do not have to submit a police report when you file an insurance claim. However, doing so can help prove the other driver was at fault for the collision, not you. It can also link your injuries and vehicle damage directly to the car accident, since the reporting law enforcement officer will have documented any injuries and vehicle damage, at the time of the car crash. A claims adjuster from your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company will review this information to determine which party was to blame for the traffic accident.
Next Steps After a Car Accident
The following steps can help you in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident and can protect your claim and increase your chances of receiving compensation after being involved in an automobile accident that was not your fault.
Seek Medical Treatment
After an auto accident, once you’ve spoken with law enforcement, you will be free to go.
If you were injured but you have refused to be transported to the hospital, you must seek medical treatment as soon as possible. There are many types of injuries that do not display symptoms until several hours or days following a collision, some of which can be fatal. Seeking medical treatment immediately following an accident will also tie your injuries to the accident.
Contact a Personal Injury Law Firm
After you have received medical treatment, you must contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling complex car crash claims and can guide you through this process, coach you on what to say when you contact your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, and handle every other aspect of your case.
Obtain a Copy of Your Car Accident Report
The next step is requesting a copy of your police collision report. Even if you decide not to hire an attorney, obtaining a copy of your crash report is something you can do to help prove your claim for compensation. Getting a copy of your police report can be tricky, considering most law enforcement agencies have different waiting periods and methods of how to request a copy of a police report. If you were injured in the accident and/or your vehicle was totaled, you may not have a way to pick up your report in person.
If you’ve decided to request your incident report by mail, you may find that you’ll have to wait several weeks or months for your crash report to arrive, depending on how many other requests the department is handling at that time. All police accident report requests are answered in the order they’re received.
There can be other complications that can make it difficult to obtain your police collision report through the mail. Some police departments may request a copy of your valid driver’s license or government-issued ID. They often want these copies notarized. If you’re injured and don’t have a working vehicle, it’s just one more problem you’ll have to figure out.
How We Can Help
Life after a serious motor vehicle crash can be devastating. Not only do you have to deal with a long and painful recovery, a damaged vehicle, and lost wages from work, but if you want to significantly improve your chances of receiving compensation, now you have to figure out a way to get a copy of your police accident report, as soon as possible.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution.
Getting an Online Report After a Motor Vehicle Crash Has Never Been Easier
AccidentReports.com created an extensive police report data center that you can use to search for a copy of your accident report as soon as it’s available. Our team developed this information center to make it easier for accident victims to obtain a copy of their police accident reports online, from the comfort of their homes.
We understand how difficult it can be to visit a police department in person or wait for your police report to arrive in the mail, especially if you suffered serious injuries. Because of this, we have made it our mission to provide an intuitive, easy to use police crash report data center that makes getting a copy of your crash report online, a cinch. To learn more or to start your search, fill out the form on this page and submit your accident information to get assistance.