Filing a road traffic accident report with law enforcement is important after a traffic accident. The police report will provide important information for the car insurance company. It also can protect you in case you are sued after the accident. Further, if the accident was caused by the other party, the police report can be used as evidence in your own claim or lawsuit.
Why Police Reports Are Valuable
Depending upon your state, you could be required to call the police and file a report after a traffic accident. This is often required if the accident involves injury and/or damages more than $500 or $1000. Even if the law does not mandate that you file a report after a road traffic accident, you still may want to do so. Here is why:
- Your injuries may not become clear until days or weeks after the traffic accident.
- You may not notice the damages to your car right away.
- The other driver could make false claims about the traffic accident.
- The other driver could admit fault to you but may change his mind later.
Police Reports and Auto Insurance Claims
Having a police report on hand will help you in several ways:
- It can make the claims process go faster with your car insurance company.
- It may result in a faster pay out for your claim. Fault and accident details are easier to determine with a police report filed.
- If the accident turns into a court case, your lawyer will want a copy of the police report.
But even if you do file the police report, note that you do not necessarily have to file a claim with your auto insurance company. If the damages to your car is minor and the deductible on your insurance is high, you might want to pay the costs of the repairs yourself. This can help you to avoid a hike in your auto insurance rates.
However, if you decide that you do want to file the claim with your auto insurer, you should call them as soon as possible after the accident. The sooner that you do this, the better because your memory of the accident will be fresher.
Information that Should Be in Your Police Report
It is important to have as many details as possible in the police report. You should take photos and notes at the accident scene to collect information to help your memory. Information that should be in the police report include:
- A description of the car accident in detail.
- The number of passengers in the car of the other driver.
- Insurance information and driver’s name.
- Name of any witnesses to the accident. If you can, get their statement recorded on your cell phone.
- Details of damages sustained to your vehicle.
- Any injuries to yourself or passengers.
The police officer will collect your information and will submit the police report to their department. At the accident scene, the police officer could cite one or more drivers for a traffic violation.
When you are at the accident scene, request a card with the name of the police officer in case you need to contact him later. The police officer’s name does appear on the report, but it can be hard to read.
Getting the Police Report
You can often get a copy of the police report in one or two days after the accident. If you filed an auto insurance claim on your policy, your auto insurance provider may ask you for a copy of the report to the police.
Police May Not Come to the Scene
The police may not actually come to the car accident scene. For example, many police departments do not send officers to the scene if there were no injuries, or if the property damage involved was less than $500. Also, if local conditions are too extreme or dangerous, such as after severe weather, police may not show up.
What To Do If Police Do Not Arrive
If police do not come to the scene of the accident, you can drive to the police department and file the police report. Also, you can file a report with your state’s DMV. In a few case, you might even have to do so.