Imagine you’ve just been in a car accident. You’ve always heard you should file a police report after an accident, but you’re just not sure it’s necessary.
The driver of the car that ran into your vehicle was clearly at fault. You’re both pulled to the side of the road, exchanging insurance information, and assessing the vehicle damage. Witnesses are standing by, offering their opinions.
You don’t think you’re hurt, but you’re shaken up and your heart is pounding. The other driver is calling it a “minor fender-bender,” although you can see that more than your fender will need replacing.
But your car seems drivable, and you’re late for work. Should you bother to call the police?
Even in minor accidents, with minor damage and no apparent injuries,you should a police officer to the scene to file a traffic collision report. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. Police Reports Document Relevant Information about the Accident
In the heat of the moment, you may forget to collect all the information you will need later – but the police won’t. The traffic collision report will contain everything you need to file a claim with the insurance company, and report the accident to the department of motor vehicles:
Information about the accident itself: date, time, location, and how the incident occurred.
Details about the vehicles involved: license plates, vehicle description, registered owners, and insurance information.
Information about people involved: Drivers names and contact information, driver’s license numbers, passenger names and contact information.
Witness information: names and contact information, and each of their statements.
Photographs, descriptions, and/or sketches of the accident scene.
All this information will be crucial to filing a claim for your damages and injuries.
2. Police Reports Are Neutral, Third-party Observations
The police officer who responds is a trained professional who was not involved in the accident. His or her written observations of the accident scene will be used by the insurance adjusters to manage the claim. Also, the officer’s determination of fault for the accident, while not admissible in court, will be a factor in how the insurance company handles the claim.
3. Police Reports Provide Official Documentation of Vehicle Damage
The police report is an official record of the damage done to your vehicle because of the accident. This makes it very difficult for the at-fault party to dispute property damage, especially if the police report contains photographs.
4. Police Reports Provide Official Documentation of Your Injuries
While you may feel fine, the responding officer will also ask the right questions to determine if, in fact, you do need medical treatment. If the officer feels you do, he or she may summon paramedics to the scene. Otherwise, the officer will note observations of cuts, scrapes, bruises, reports of pain or dizziness, etc.
If the officer advises you to seek medical attention, do so. Symptoms of accident injuries can be delayed, and if you wait to seek treatment, it can jeopardize your injury claim. However, if the police officer noted that you complained of neck pain at the scene, for instance, it may support a later claim of whiplash.
5. Police Reports Include Determination of Fault
The police report will note how the accident occurred, including vehicle code violations the at-fault party made, and the officer’s initial assessment of fault. Once all the relevant information is analyzed, which takes about five days, the finalized report will contain a final determination of fault. If it lists the other driver as the at-fault party, the insurance company will have a tough time denying your claim.
6. Information from Police Reports Is Used to Help the Community
Information from police reports are entered into local, state, and federal databases to track and analyze public safety issues. For example, if there is an intersection in your town that is particularly dangerous, the information from police reports can be analyzed to determine potential safety upgrades. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analyzes this information to make recommendations about laws, regulations, and road safety initiatives. The information about your accident may be helpful in making your community safer.
7. Police Reports Help Your Lawyer Make Your Case
Let’s return to the scenario described at the beginning of this post. It’s a week after the accident. It turns out that you did, in fact, suffer a bone fracture in the collision, which was found by paramedics called to the scene by the police. The other driver’s insurance company is disputing liability and trying to deny your claim.
An experienced car accident injury attorney, like the ones at TorkLaw, use the information to force the company to respect your claim. If necessary, the attorney can use the information to begin an investigation to demonstrate that the other driver was at fault.
It’s always best to file a police report after an accident, to protect your own interests, and have official documentation of the facts. If you’ve been in an accident, TorkLaw will order you a FREE copy of your police report.
If the accident was caused by another person’s negligence or recklessness, it’s also best to contact TorkLaw. Our attorneys will ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation you deserve.