Reporting a car accident to the police is the first step you should take after making sure everyone is safe and out of harms’ way. The police report will provide important information for the car insurance company. If the accident was caused by the other party, the police report can be used as evidence to strengthen your claim and get you a larger average settlement for your auto accident. It also can protect you in case you are sued after the accident.
There’s also a chance that your injuries don’t start showing symptoms until days after the accident, even if you don’t feel like you were injured initially.
Why Police Reports Are Valuable
Depending on the car accident laws in the state where the accident happened, you could be required by law to call the police and file a report after a car 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 car accident, you probably still want to do so, for a number of reasons:
- Your injuries may not become clear until days or weeks after the accident. If this happens, having an official police report of the circumstances of the accident can be the difference between winning and losing your your claim.
- You may not notice the damages to your car right away. Emotions are high, you may be injured, and car accidents often happen at night and in poorly lit areas.
- The other driver could make false claims about their injuries or damaged vehicle later.
- The other driver could admit fault to you but may change his story. Determining fault in a car accident when it’s your word against theirs can be tricky, so it’s always best to get an official version of the accident down on paper while the incident is still fresh on everyones’ mind.
Police Reports and Car Accident Claims
Having a police report on hand will help you in several ways:
- It can make the auto accident 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 save you time and work, as well as help you to avoid a potentially massive 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 of all vehicles involved in the accident scene, as well as any injuries you may have suffered in the crash. It may help to take notes while the incident is fresh in your memory in case you have to recount events later.
Information that should be in the police report include:
- A description of the car accident in detail. This should include where and how fast you were driving, when you first saw the other car, and how the crash happened.
- The number of passengers in the other car(s) involved in the car accident.
- Insurance information for all drivers involved in the accident.
- Name of any witnesses to the accident. If you can, get their contact information and/or their statement recorded on your cell phone.
- Details of damages sustained to your vehicle.
- Any injuries that were sustained
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. Chances are good if the other party was issued a citation and you weren’t, you won’t be found at fault for the accident.
When you are at the accident scene, request a card with the name of the police officer in case you need to contact them later. The police officer’s name does appear on the report, but it can be hard to read.
Getting a Copy of Your Police Report After a Car Accident
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.
Amending a Police Report After a Car Accident
Once a police report is filed for the car accident, it’s not uncommon for one of the parties to request that something written on the report be changed. This is known as getting a police report amended, and typically falls into 2 categories:
- Factual Errors: This is usually things like typos, human errors, and smaller oversights. For example, the officer at the scene heard a name wrong, or wrote the wrong car model on the report.
- Disputed Facts: This is harder to ammend, because it’s more of a word vs word scenario. An example of disputed facts would be someone who admitted fault on the scene but then changed their story, claiming they were disoriented and not thinking clearly in the moments immediately following the crash.
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 even if a police officer does arrive at the scene to take the accident report.