Filing an accident report with the police is an essential step to take after a car accident.
The police report can provide valuable information for your car insurance company, and it can help protect you in the event of an accident-related lawsuit.
The Value of Police Reports
Depending on where you live, you may be required to contact your police department and file a report.
Even if the law does not require it, it is wise to file a police report even if the accident seems minor. Consider the following:
- Injuries may not become apparent for a few days or weeks.
- You may not notice all of the damage to your car immediately.
- The other party may make false claims about the car accident later.
- The other party may admit fault to you but change his mind as time passes.
Police Reports and Car Insurance Claims
A police report helps you in a number of ways:
- It helps facilitate the claims process with your auto insurance company.
- It can mean a quicker payout on your claim, as fault and accident details will be easier to determine with the report.
- Should your accident escalate into in a court case, your attorney will need a copy of the police report.
However, understand that even if you file a police report, you do not automatically have to file a claim with your car insurance company. If the amount of damage to your car is small and your car insurance deductible is high, you might want to pay the expenses yourself without involving your car insurance company. This may help you avoid accident-related rate hikes in the future.
Information to Include in Your Police Report
Make your police report as detailed and accurate as possible. Take notes and photos at the scene of the accident to gather information and help you remember. Include as much of the following information as you can:
- Description of what happened.
- Number of passengers in the other driver’s car.
- Driver’s name and insurance information.
- Names of witnesses.
- If possible,
record their account of the accident using your cell phone.
- If possible,
- The damages your vehicles sustained.
- Injuries to yourself or your passengers.
Remember to take photos of the scene, your vehicle, and your injuries.
The Next Steps
The law enforcement officer will collect your information and then submit the report to their department. At the scene, the officer may cite (issue a ticket to) one or more drivers for traffic violations.
While at the accident scene, ask for a card with the officer's name on it in case you need to contact the officer later. The officer's name will appear on the report, but the handwriting might be difficult to read.
Obtaining the Report
Usually you can obtain a copy to review within one or two days. If you filed a claim with your car insurance company, your provider may ask you for a copy of the police report.
Why Police Might Not Come to the Scene
The police don’t always make it to the scene of a car accident. There are three common reasons why they might not come if you have an accident.
- The accident did not cause injuries.
- The total value of the property damage was too small. In some jurisdictions, a police officer may not be required to show up to the scene if the estimated damage is less than $500.
- The conditions are too extreme. After an earthquake or in severe weather, such as blizzards or hurricanes, your accident may take lower priority than other accidents or traffic needs.
What to Do if the Police Don’t Come
If a police officer doesn’t come to the scene of the auto accident, you can actually go to the police department to file your report. You can often do so online or at the police station.
You can also file an accident report with the DMV. In some cases, you may actually be required to do so. Visit our page on filing accident reports with the DMV to learn more.
Remember, the more documentation you have, the more evidence you have to support your claim.