Attorney at Law

Do I Have to File a Police Report After a Car Accident?

If you ever find yourself in a motor vehicle accident, you might find yourself wondering whether or not you need to get the police involved to file a report and, if so, when, where, and how. This article will provide an overview of everything you need to know about police reports and car accidents. 

Why You Should File Police Reports After a Car Accident

There are a few reasons why you should file a police report in the event of a motor vehicle accident.

First, in many states and countries, it is legally required to call the police to the scene of a car accident or, at the very least, to file a police report afterward. Sometimes, it is only required if the accident involves injuries and/or property damage but, even if your car accident was minor and nobody got hurt, it is still a good idea to file a police report.

One of the main reasons why you’ll benefit from filing a police report is that it will serve as evidence if you ever decide to file an insurance claim to get compensated for any losses suffered as a result of the accident. Insurance companies investigate claims to try to see who was at fault for the accident and how much compensation you are entitled to, and police reports are one of the strongest pieces of evidence you can offer them to show what happened. 

However, although it is very common for insurance adjusters to look at police reports as evidence when investigating a claim, if your case makes it to court, the police report will most likely not be admissible as evidence because it is considered hearsay. 

What Car Accident Police Reports Contain

There are several things that the officer who reports to the scene of your car accident will include in their police report. These include:

  • The location of the car accident
  • The date and time of the car accident
  • What damage was done to each vehicle during the accident
  • Injuries sustained by drivers, passengers, and/or pedestrians
  • Witness statements when relevant
  • Driver’s statements
  • Weather and road conditions during the time of the accident
  • Diagrams of the accident
  • Citations that were given to any of the parties involved
  • Any other important facts

Sometimes, police reports will also include the officer’s opinion about who was at fault for the accident. However, this is considered to be opinion, not fact, and insurance companies may not always agree with it.

How to File a Police Report After a Car Accident

Ideally, you should call the police to the scene of your car accident so that a report can be generated immediately after the collision. When an officer arrives at the scene, you can answer any questions he or she has for you. They will also speak to the other driver involved and any passengers and/or witnesses. 

Before the officer leaves, you’ll want to get his or her badge number and the identifying number of the police report. That way, later on, once the report has been filed - which usually takes up to a few days - you’ll be able to request a copy for your own records and to be used in any insurance claims. 

How Long Can You Wait to File a Police Report After Your Accident?

You may be wondering what happens if your accident has come and gone and you didn’t have a police officer come to generate a report on the scene. Is it possible to file a police report days or weeks after the accident? 

Depending on the country and state you live in, there will be varying laws about how long you have to file a police report after the accident happens. Again, this usually only applies to accidents that cause property damage and/or injuries. That being said, you’ll still want to file a report even for minor accidents so that it can be used as evidence in insurance claims cases. 

It is common for the window of time you have to file an accident after a report to be anywhere from 24 hours to ten days. It is highly recommended that you check the law in your own jurisdiction so you can know how long you have to file a police report where you live. If you fail to report your accident on time, it may result in a fine or a penalty to your driver’s license such as suspension. 

If you’re going to file a police report after the accident rather than calling an officer to the scene, it’s important that you document as many details as possible so that you can provide accurate information. So when you are still at the scene, take note of the following:

  • Date, time, and driving conditions of the accident
  • Personal information of all the parties involved including names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance details, license plate numbers, and driver’s license numbers
  • Witness statements and/or contact information
  • Injuries at the scene
  • Damage to the vehicles
  • A diagram of the scene
  • Photos and videos of the scene, cars, and damage

Note that it will be incredibly helpful for you if you can get in touch with a motor vehicle accident attorney to help walk you through the process of filing a police report and an insurance claim. An experienced lawyer will know the laws regarding how long you have to file a report and help make sure you follow all of the correct procedures.

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