Most car accidents generate a flurry of paperwork. One very important piece of paper you will want to keep on file is your police report. A police report is an official overview of who was involved and how the accident occurred. It is crucial to have on hand in regards to your car accident case.
Police reports are completed by the officers on duty at the time of your accident. Sometimes human errors can occur. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make necessary changes. If you have been in an accident, it is important to know how to get a copy of the police report. If you have found an error in your police report, keep reading to find out how to get a police report amended.
Why are Police Reports Necessary?
Created by the police officers responding to your crash, police reports are issued for virtually all accidents that result in damages. Always call the police to report your accident as soon as it is safe to do so. Police will arrive, assist with redirecting traffic around the collision, and ensure that anyone injured receives the medical attention they need. The police report will be filed soon afterwards, based on information collected at the scene.
Police reports are often one of the first pieces of evidence that insurance claims adjusters and attorneys will evaluate. Though generally not admissible in court, police reports are important tools for determining liability. It also records the contact information and statements of drivers involved in the accident. Witness statements are also sometimes included in police reports.
Considering all it entails, it’s no surprise that the police report is often the crucial piece of evidence to determine liability. That’s why it’s so important that the facts included in the police report are correct. Of course, there are differences between details that you might disagree with and the factual errors that are objectively incorrect.
What Details Does a Police Report Include?
This document contains the circumstances and facts of a car accident as the police see it and as reported by those involved. These details are important to insurance companies and lawyers when determining who was at fault for the accident. Reports may vary based on the state or the agency taking down the report. Some of those details may include:
- Names and personal information of drivers and passengers
- Insurance information
- Descriptions of damages to vehicles
- Passenger and driver injuries
- Witness names and statements
- Weather conditions
- Road and lighting conditions
- Violations of the law
- Diagram and photographs of the accident scene
- Possibly a statement of who may be at fault for the accident. Note that this is the opinion of the police officer who wrote the report.
How much time do you have to file a police report after a car accident?
It is always a good idea to file a police report in order for the insurance adjusters to determine who is at fault, among other things. But how much time do you have to file that police report before it’s too late? If an accident is severe, the police should respond to the scene of the crash and will document the case then.
If a crash is minor and you do not call the police immediately, you can file an incident report over the phone or in person at a police station. Each state has different laws regarding this situation. For example, in Alabama you must file within 30 days but in California you only have 10 days.
Many states including Colorado, Georgia and Louisiana all require you to report the accident immediately over the phone. The requirements can also vary depending on the insurance companies that you are dealing with. Many require that reports be filed within 24 hours of the accident. If possible, you should immediately report the accident as a precaution.
How long does it take for a police report to be filed?
You were involved in a car accident and want to know the results of the investigation, but how quickly can you obtain the police accident report? The length of time it takes to obtain a police accident report varies based on three factors: the agency responsible for filing the report, how severe the injuries from the crash were, and if the investigation is still ongoing because of a crime (for example DUI or fatality).
The agency responsible for filing the police accident report is the most common cause of these reports being delayed. Even if there is no active investigation some law enforcement agencies may take considerable time to file the report. This could be because the investigating officer is out on leave, is on vacation, or simply has yet to complete the report. If you call into the agency to inquire about the status of your report, always be sure to remain civil and polite.
Severity of the Injuries
Some police accident reports can be delayed in filing because of the severity of the injuries caused by the crash. If the injuries were traumatic, such as brain injuries, amputation, or paralysis, the report might not be filed until a medical diagnosis has been issued. The police officer filing the report might also hold off on filing the report until he or she has the medical records of the victim.
If the accident led to a criminal investigation because it involved instances of driving under the influence or a fatality, the police report will be delayed. These investigations take months to complete, which means the police report might not be available for up to six months or more from the date of the accident.
Most police accident reports take no longer than seven days to be filed and made available to the public if the injuries were minor and there is no criminal investigation.
How do I get a copy of the police report from my car accident?
If the accident leads to a claim or lawsuit, it will be important for you to have a copy of the police report. Here is how to get one:
- Contact the police department that investigated your car accident. If you do not remember the department of the investigating officer, you can call either the municipal police department, the sheriff’s office, or the state highway patrol.
- Usually, the police department will have you complete a police report request form. Many local police departments now allow you to request a police report online. It is wise to search online to find out what the requirements are for your local police department.
- Some police departments will charge you to get a copy of the police report. Prices can vary per department.
Note that the Department or Bureau of Motor Vehicles in most states require you to submit a car accident report within 72 hours after the accident, if there was serious damage or injuries. This requirement varies by state, so check with your DMV/BMV to see what the requirements are.
How do I contest or amend a police report filed against me?
Police reports are documents filed by an officer following any type of incident. Any member of the public can call a police department or visit one to file a police report. Many reports are filed following a minor car accident that involved property damage but no injuries, which means the police might not have been called to the scene. What if the report filed by the police was incorrect? Are you able to contest the report?
Contact the Office Immediately
The minute you notice that the information provided in the police report from your incident is incorrect you need to contact the officer who filed said report. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you will be successful in having the report amended. It will take some convincing to get the officer to change their report, but it’s not out of the question that it could happen.
File a Complaint
The next option you have is to file a complaint. Speak with your attorney about the report and have them file a complaint with the police department on your behalf against the officer who filed the report. Should you provide plenty of evidence, the department might be able to convince the prosecution to either drop or lessen any charges against you.
Request Access to Personnel File
It is possible in some jurisdictions to request access to the personnel file of the officer who filed the police report. This would be done to find out if the officer has received similar complaints about filing incorrect or false reports. If this is the case, your defense attorney can argue that the officer has a history of making false reports. This could lead to the charges being dropped or reduced.
Why would I need to amend a police report after a car accident?
If you have been in a car accident, you know the first step is to exchange insurance information with the other party involved and to call the police so they can file an accident report. But as we know, people make mistakes and errors are sometimes included within the report. In some cases, there is even information missing.
Changes can be made to the report otherwise known as “amending” the police report. Amending a police report is simple, yet changes will only be made if provided with strong concrete evidence to support your claim. There are many reasons you might need to amend a police report including:
- Any missing information
- Incorrect spellings
- Wrong name, birth date, license plate number, make/model of car
- Insurance forms
- Registration records
- Incorrect testimony (you reported that you were going 20mph and the officer recorded that you were going 30mph)
- Error in the witness statement
- If you think there is something wrong with disputable information in the report, you will have a harder time getting it changed. The best you can do in most cases is to write your version of the details you are disputing and hope it can be added as a report supplement.
Factual Errors vs. Disputed Information
Mistakes happen, but when errors are made on police reports, it can affect the insurance settlement of the victim. While it may seem as though the facts in a police report are set in stone, that is not always true. However, some facts are easier to alter than others.
Let’s say you got involved in an accident on Peachtree Street. If the accident report says that the incident occurred on Peachtree Avenue, you’ll want to get the report amended. Thankfully, changing factual errors is generally pretty easy. You’ll need to provide proof of the correct information when you reach out to the officer who wrote your report. Generally, as long as you can provide evidence of the actual correct details, factual errors are easy enough to amend.
Disputed info or details, however, can be a little more complicated. If you or your attorney disagree with how the police officer characterized an incident, you may have to fight an uphill battle in order to get it altered. For example, if your Peachtree Street crash occurred because the other driver involved ran a red light, you’d likely feel aggravated when you see the police report claims that the light was green at the time of the wreck.
Such facts are virtually impossible to disprove. Unless you have a dash cam setup with video evidence that the other driver did indeed run a red light, it will be difficult to get the report amended. Still, you have options: write up your version of what happened and ask to attach your account to the official police report. In most cases, it will be up to the police officer who wrote the report whether or not to grant your request.
If you discover that information is missing from the report such as your complaint at the time of the crash that your head was in pain
What’s the process for amending disputed facts in the police report?
If there is information in the police report about a disputed fact you think it incorrect, this is harder to fix. However, this is not necessarily the end of getting your police report amended. Errors about disputed facts concern disagreements about conclusions or accounts that were made in the report. If you disagree with the officer’s conclusion in the report that you were going 10 MPH over the speed limit when the accident happened, it will be hard to get that fact changed.
Your only recourse when trying to correct a disputed fact in a police report is to write your own addendum to the police report and call attention to the information you are disputing. Provide detailed information about your version of those facts. It is at the discretion of the reporting officer as to whether or not your addendum will be added as a supplemental report.
What is a Supplemental Police Report?
A supplemental police report is just that; a report that supplements the original report filed by the officer that investigated the initial incident. The information contained in a supplemental police report can range from minor to major. If a witness to the accident comes forward after the initial report is written, that testimony would be added as a supplemental report. If a weapon or illegal substances are later discovered near the scene of the accident, this may be added as supplemental.
Using Supplemental Police Reports
There are many police departments that do not allow the use of supplemental police reports because they do not request the same amount of in-depth information as an initial police report. There are times when departments must allow the use of supplemental reports due to additional information becoming available after the initial report was filed. Another instance when a supplemental report is used comes when there are multiple officers working on an investigation. Each officer might be asked to file their own supplemental report to be attached to the initial report.
Requirements for Supplemental Reports
As mentioned earlier, some police departments require the filing of an initial police report first before a supplemental report can be used. There are some departments that allow the public to visit their website and download supplemental reports. There are others that allow the public to file a supplemental report for a non-emergency incident, such as a car accident that did not involve any injuries.
When Supplemental Reports Cannot be Used
Police departments across the country typically don’t allow the filing of supplemental police reports in any of the following circumstances:
- Evidence has yet to be collected
- The situation is still an actively dangerous one
- If the info is in relation to the location of the suspect
- If the filing is being used to report gunshots
- Vehicle theft
- Domestic violence
- Significant property loss
A supplemental police report is an important document that many police departments use in various situations. As with regular police reports it’s possible for a member of the public to request a copy of such a report when necessary.
I need to dispute a police report – what do I do?
If you discover errors in the police report, including factual ones, you should never ignore them. Here are some simple tips to get the police report corrected:
- Be polite. Your approach and attitude to the police officer will really help you to get the report changed. You will get a better result if you talk to the officer who came to the crash scene about the report errors rather than going straight to his supervisor.
- Give documentation. For any error, especially one about facts, the policy officer will probably correct the report more easily if you can show documentation of the error. If he got the type of vehicle wrong, you should provide him with a copy of your car registration to get it corrected.
- Act fast. You want the police report as soon as possible, contact the police officer about any errors as soon as you can. It is often easier to get them to make corrections before the report is finalized.
Can you drop a police report?
The question of dropping a police report is a common one. Many people who are named in police reports or those who file them often ask this question because they want to have the report dropped. The easy answer to this question is that a police report cannot be dropped once it has been filed. The only option you have is to get any charges filed against you dropped from your record. When it comes to having charges dropped you will need a lot of help in order to be successful. If you were the one who filed the report you can request that the charges be dropped.
Speak with Police
The first thing you need to do if you wish to drop the charges filed in the police report is to speak with the police department. The police are not permitted to drop the charges at your request. However, they can make a note that you wish to drop the charges in the report.
Meet the District Attorney
Your next option is to speak with the district attorney assigned to the case, if there has been a DA assigned. Explain to the DA the reasons why you wish to drop the charges you filed with the report. If the reasons are that the wrong person was charged or that you made an error in filing the report, you will need to provide evidence to support your claims.
Talk to the Defense Attorney
If the District Attorney decides to continue prosecuting the person named in the police report, speak to the defendant’s attorney. Offer your testimony and evidence to the defense attorney. Be prepared to testify in front of a judge and jury if the case reaches trial. Your testimony will help the defendant reach a possible acquittal.
Amending the Report
Every police department handles accident reports slightly differently. Because of this, you should always reach out via their non-emergency number to ask how to amend a police report. Be ready to show evidence of your claims in order to successfully have the report amended. Remember to be polite and to act quickly.
Legal Help for Accident Victims
If you need help making necessary changes, consider reaching out to a local car accident attorney. They can assist you with finding evidence to disprove the error and get the police to cooperate with your request. We can connect you with an experienced, knowledgeable attorney in your area today.
Our free service helps those who have been hurt in car accidents all over the country. We can give you insight into how much your claim could be worth, and offer professional help. Reach out today to seek the justice you deserve in the wake of an accident.