Obtaining and Using a Police Report
You may have been involved in a motor vehicle accident or another incident. If a law enforcement officer responded, a police report was probably created. You are entitled to receive a copy of the police report. It is a good idea to contact the responding law enforcement agency as soon as possible after the auto accident.
This article discusses:
- How and why you should get your police report
- When you should contact a personal injury lawyer
How To Get a Copy of the Police Report
If you know the name of the agency, you can look them up on the internet and call their phone number to request a copy of the police officer's report.
Disclaimer: You may need to pay a small fee to cover photocopying. The agency may require that you appear in person with identification to pick up the police accident report. Some agencies will mail a copy of the report to you at no charge.
How a Police Report Can Help in an Injury Case
A police report can go a long way toward gaining negotiation leverage in any personal injury dispute. For example, during informal settlement discussions with an insurance carrier or opposing counsel, you or your attorney can use the facts and conclusions found in a police report to gain an advantage on such issues as:
- The circumstances of the scene of the accident, including the time of day, date, specific location, and weather conditions at the time
- A preliminary assessment of fault, especially in motor vehicle accidents
Identifying Information of Witnesses
In addition to providing leverage during discussions on central issues such as fault for an accident, police reports can contain the identifying information of anyone who might have witnessed the incident or who arrived on the scene of the accident soon afterward.
Additionally, a police report includes each driver's insurance information. This information will help you or your attorney expedite the insurance claims process. The information may also help request key information, including but not limited to, policy or coverage limits.
At a minimum, most reports will list:
- The names and telephone numbers of witnesses and those at the scene
- Witness statements about what happened
Having contact information and a record of witnesses' views about what took place can be a valuable asset for you and your attorney. It can help when proving what happened and who was at fault.
Amending a Police Report
Sometimes the information provided in a police report may be inaccurate. Fortunately, it's possible to amend a police report in certain circumstances. While amending a factual error in a report is a relatively simple process, amending a disputed fact, such as who was at fault for serious injuries, is more difficult.
You should contact your local police department to learn about the appropriate next steps. In many cases, that simply may involve adding your statement to the accident report.
Below, we will cover some frequently asked questions about police reports, personal injury claims, and seeking legal help.
How can a police report help my personal injury claim following a car accident?
A police report is an important document in a personal injury claim. It provides a detailed record of the accident from a neutral third-party perspective, making it a reliable source of information. The report includes information such as:
- The drivers involved
- Vehicle details
- The circumstances of the scene
- The responding officer's preliminary assessment of fault
This information can be crucial in establishing liability and providing context to your accident or subsequent medical treatments. If the report includes statements from witnesses or a citation against the other driver, it can bolster your claim considerably.
How can I use the information about the location of the accident in a police report?
The location of the accident, as recorded in the police report, provides context for your personal injury claim. This information can highlight:
- Road conditions
- Traffic signs
- Potential hazards that may have contributed to the accident
For example, if the accident happened in an area known for frequent accidents due to poor road conditions or confusing signage, your case could be strengthened by suggesting negligence on the part of the authorities. The location information can also help your attorney identify any local laws or regulations relevant to your case.
Why is the time of the accident, as stated in the police report, important in a personal injury claim?
The time of the accident, documented in the police report, can contribute to the narrative of the event and establish contributing factors such as visibility and traffic conditions.
For instance, if the accident occurred at night or during rush hour, this could explain factors like decreased visibility or increased traffic volume. The time could also correlate with the behavior of drivers, for example, drowsiness during early morning or late-night hours.
Establishing the precise time of the accident can help corroborate your account of events and align them with the statements of witnesses or other evidence, like traffic camera footage.
Can a police report help me identify witnesses to my car accident?
Yes, a police report can be a valuable resource in identifying witnesses to your accident. Witnesses can offer impartial accounts of the event, which can strengthen your personal injury claim.
The police report typically includes:
- Contact information
- Statements of witnesses recorded at the scene
Being able to reach out to these people for their accounts or to testify can provide extra support to your claim.
How can a police report help my insurance claim after a car accident?
A police report can be crucial in processing your insurance claim after a car accident. Insurance companies rely on this official documentation to understand the facts of the accident better. Details like each driver's insurance information, an assessment of damage to vehicles, and a preliminary allocation of fault can speed up the insurance policy claim process.
A police report can also serve as a vital piece of evidence if there's a dispute with the adjuster about the circumstances of the accident or the extent of the damage.
What role does a police report play in a wrongful death claim following a car accident?
In a wrongful death claim following a car accident, a police report can provide important evidence. It offers an unbiased and comprehensive record of the incident, including factors that contributed to the fatal outcome. This information can help establish negligence on the part of the at-fault driver. The report's detailed account, along with expert testimony and additional evidence, can help the deceased's family seek justice and compensation for their loss.
Can a police report help me determine if I need legal representation following a car accident?
A police report provides an objective account of the accident, which can help you gauge your car accident claim. While it does not determine the need for a car accident lawyer, the report can help highlight potential disputes about:
- Serious injuries
- Extensive property damage in your personal injury case
Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney About Police Reports for Car Accidents
If you've been in a car accident and have questions about obtaining or using a crash report, it's best to speak with a local car accident attorney. A skilled attorney who handles car accident cases can help you get compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Speak to a local car accident attorney for a free case evaluation today.
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