Obtaining a Police Report After a Car Accident

Learn the importance of a car accident police report, how to obtain one, and its role in insurance claims and lawsuits.

A car accident can cause trauma and panic. Even if you aren’t injured, post-crash confusion can make it difficult to think clearly. 

The first step after an accident is always to find a safe place to wait and check yourself and others for injuries. Then, you need to call the police. The steps you take after a vehicle collision can help you protect your rights and pursue compensation for damages. 

Pictures from the scene, insurance information, and witness statements are helpful in an accident case. However, the most important piece of evidence is the police report. 

Here is an in-depth look at this important document and the role it plays in accident cases.

What Is a Car Accident Police Report?

A car accident police report is a document prepared by law enforcement personnel who respond to an accident. It includes the identities of everyone involved in the incident and the circumstances surrounding the collision. 

The report also includes any findings officers discovered when looking at the scene and talking to victims and witnesses. It includes their observations and conclusions about what happened. 

The report is useful for insurance claims, legal action, and any further police investigations or charges. 

Why Is a Car Accident Police Report Important?

The police report establishes the facts surrounding the accident. These facts serve as the basis for legal claims and insurance investigations. Insurance companies may ask for the police report number when you notify them of the crash, which you should do as soon as possible after the accident. Not only does the report include information about the other parties, but it also has details to help establish fault. 

In addition to insurance companies, lawyers can use the information in the police report to establish a personal injury case. For instance, a good lawyer will use the report to build an argument for negligence by another driver. They may use witness statements or other evidence in the report to support their claims. 

What Happens if You Don’t File a Police Report After a Crash?

You may be responsible for reporting an accident to the police. The legal reporting requirements vary by state. However, states have similar thresholds for reporting. 

For instance, in Oregon, you must report an accident to the DMV if it caused more than $2,500 in property or vehicle damage. However, you can file a police report even if the damages amount to less. Any accident causing injury and death requires contacting the police. 

Failure to contact police could lead to license suspension or charges for fleeing the scene of an accident. You could also experience complications proving you deserve compensation from insurers or during personal injury cases. 

How To Obtain a Police Report After a Car Accident

You need to request the report from the agency that responded or your accident. This could be the highway patrol, state patrol, county sheriff’s department, or local police department. 

The process for getting the report depends on the department. You can contact them and ask them how to acquire a report. Many agencies have online portals for reports. You may also have to request a hard copy in the mail or in person

You should be able to receive the report with identifying information like your name, license number, or the location and date of the accident. If you are able, obtain a case number or incident number from the responding officers.  

Be aware of fees. Some jurisdictions charge fees for printing or copying the report. Others may charge a general administrative fee. Amounts and accepted payment methods vary, so you need to be prepared to pay via cash, paper check, or card. 

Who Can Request an Accident Report?

Accident reports are not available to anyone who requests them. The people who can legally obtain an accident report fall into three categories. 

  • People directly involved in the accident;
  • Legal representatives for any party involved in the accident;
  • Insurance companies that are covering anyone involved in the incident. 

The limitations are due to the sensitive information contained in the reports. They include identifying information for the parties involved and their vehicles. They might also contain privileged medical information.

What To Do if You Encounter Problems in Obtaining the Report

You could potentially experience problems obtaining a report. You might experience delays due to poor filing systems or departments and officers who are overwhelmed with paperwork and unable to complete reports promptly. 

Some may require you to submit specific details, such as the case number. Others may not accept your request due to officers incorrectly entering your name or license number. 

Your insurance company may not be willing to assist you in obtaining an accident report. If the law enforcement agency does not accept your request, you can obtain legal counsel. An accident lawyer can work on your behalf to obtain the report. 

Understanding the Information in Police Reports for Car Accidents

Police reports should include all information related to the accident, including identities and circumstances. Here are the details most reports will include

  • The date, time, and location of the accident;
  • The identities of drivers and passengers involved in the crash;
  • The vehicles involved, including license and VINs;
  • The circumstances leading up to the crash;
  • The nature of injuries and property damage;
  • Statements from witnesses;
  • Other pertinent information, such as road conditions or weather;
  • Citations or violations issued due to the actions of drivers in the accident;
  • An officer narrative that explains what the attending officers saw during their investigation. 

The police report may or may not explicitly say who is at fault for the accident. However, it may include details that allow lawyers or insurance company investigators to establish fault or build a case to prove negligence. 

Decoding the Jargon in a Police Report

Officers often use abbreviations or codes to shorten the time spent on paperwork. This jargon may appear in the report and make it difficult to understand. While lawyers will be familiar with these terms, you can figure out most of the abbreviations if you know a few key terms. Here are the most common examples. 

  • Car portions and passenger positions are abbreviated using the F for front and R for rear and the direction. For example, RF is right front and LR is left rear. 
  • Abbreviations for accident type include HRUN for a hit-and-run accident and MVCP for a motor vehicle collision with property damage.
  • Acronyms can tell you who responded to the crash and any citations issued. For instance, SO stands for sheriff, and TIU for traffic investigation unit. Citations include UUMV (unauthorized use of a motor vehicle) and UTC (uniform traffic citation). 

For violations, the report may use numbers and letters that refer to the state’s code. For instance, the code for distracted driving in Oregon is 811.507.

How To Use the Information in a Police Report for Insurance Claims

Police reports help establish liability for an insurance company. It can show that you weren’t at fault for the accident. It also documents damage and injuries caused by the accident. You can include these in your claim. 

A personal injury lawyer can assist you in pursuing fair compensation after a vehicle accident. They can help negotiate with insurers and use evidence such as the police report to build a civil case if needed. 

Call us at (503) 594-4944 or contact us online!

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