What to Know About Police Reports for Motor Vehicle Accidents

By Daisy Rogozinsky
April 13, 2022

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, it may be the first time that you have to interact with police reports. A document created by law enforcement officers who respond to the scene of a car accident, police reports are often important pieces of evidence in auto insurance claims and civil cases. In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about motor vehicle accident police reports. 

1. What Is a Car Accident Police Report?

A police report is a document written by the law enforcement officer who responds to any given car accident. In short, it is a summary of the investigation of the accident. Usually written at the scene, police reports contain:

  • Date, time, and location of the accident
  • Details of the crash 
  • Identifying information about the people, vehicles, and property involved in the crash including names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information
  • A diagram of the accident
  • Weather, roadway, and visibility conditions of the scene
  • Statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • Citations and/or violations of law
  • The officer's findings of how or why the accident may have happened

2. How to Get a Copy of the Police Report 

For your own records and to use as evidence in your insurance claim or civil lawsuit, it’s important to get a copy of the police report of your accident. There are both free and paid ways to do this.

To get a paid copy of the report, you can make a request to the local law enforcement office of the officer who drafted the report. Before you leave the scene of the crash, get the investigating officer’s information and an ID number for the police report. Then you can call the agency that responded to the scene of the accident, pay a small administrative fee, and receive a copy of the report. 

Another way to potentially get the report for free is to ask the insurance adjuster handling your claim if they requested the report and ask for a copy. This method isn’t always guaranteed to work but can be worth a try. 

Note that it can take weeks for the report to be completed and available.

3. How Insurance Companies Use Police Reports

The main reason why you will want to generate and obtain a copy of a police report is so that it can be used as evidence in your insurance claim. When you make a claim to your insurance company, they will assign an adjuster to investigate and determine exactly what happened during your car accident and who was at fault. A central piece of evidence in this investigation is the police report, which contains a lot of information about the car accident that they will want to know about. 

Note that police reports contain both facts and opinions. The police officer may offer their thoughts about who was at fault, but the insurance company does not always agree with this assessment. This is why it is possible for a police report to be in your favor but for the insurance company to still deny your insurance claim. That’s why it’s important to gather your own evidence independent of the police report, as well as work with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney who can help advocate for you.

4. Police Reports in Court Cases

Police reports are commonly used in insurance claims, but they are not always admissible as evidence in car accident civil lawsuits. In small claims court, it is usually allowed for plaintiffs and defendants to use police reports as evidence. 

However, if your car accident case makes it to trial in the state’s superior court or circuit court, it will be held to the rules of evidence, in which case the police report may be categorized as hearsay. In short, because the police report contains statements made out of court, it will often not be permissible as evidence.

That being said, some jurisdictions do allow police reports to be submitted under the definition of “public records” or “business records.” In this case, some or all of the police report might be used as evidence as an exception to the hearsay rule. 

All of that said, most car accident cases are settled out of court so this may not be an issue.

5. Getting Help After a Motor Vehicle Accident Case

The process of obtaining a police report and navigating subsequent insurance claims and/or civil lawsuits can be confusing. It can help to have an experienced attorney on your side who is familiar with motor vehicle accident cases. 

Not only will they be able to help you obtain your police report with ease, but they will also understand how the report’s contents will affect your ability to be fairly compensated for the loss and damages you suffered as a result of your car accident. 

In order to have support throughout the entire process of seeking compensation after your accident, it’s recommended to get in touch with and retain legal counsel from the beginning.

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