If a driver is involved in any type of car accident, regardless of how minor or serious, the driver should always file a police report. In fact, some states require it after every accident. A police report is essential for several reasons. It is important that a driver submits a claim with his or her insurance company to cover car damages. Moreover, if a driver decides to bring a suit against a reckless driver or another negligent third-party, a police report can help to prove the details of a case.
Should I Remain at the Accident Scene?
A driver’s first instinct may be to leave the accident scene as soon as possible and go home to rest and recover. However, obtaining a police report is vital for several reasons.
Some internal injuries, like those of the neck, back, and head, including traumatic brain injuries, may not be obvious right away. A driver might assume that he or she is not seriously injured and therefore not report the accident. The same is true for damage done to a vehicle. The initial impact might not leave immediate damage but can cause less obvious damage inside the vehicle that causes problems over time.
Without the description of the accident contained in a police report, a claim for compensation for physical pain, suffering, and property damage will be harder to prove.
What Should I Do After an Accident Happens?
First, whether a driver is involved in a rear-end collision, head-on wreck, or just a minor fender bender, 911 must be called. Check everyone at the scene for injuries, so first responders can tend to anyone who needs help immediately.
If a driver is able to do so, safely pull over. Once the police arrive and ensure that everyone is safe, an officer will briefly investigate to determine why the crash happened and who may be at fault. As frightening as an accident can be, drivers should try to stay calm and just state the facts.
What is Included in a Police Report?
In a police report, the date and time of the crash will be included. This helps to set the tone of the accident scene. For example, visibility is more likely a factor in a late-night crash on a road with few streetlights than one in broad daylight.
A report should include details of the accident scene. If a driver can ascertain an exact address of the crash, then this is highly beneficial. If not, a driver should make notes of cross streets and landmarks. Include if there any hazardous road conditions, like construction debris, potholes, or heavy traffic, that played a role in the accident. These seemingly minor details can actually tell a lot about how fast a car was traveling, how the impact occurred, and who caused the wreck.
Contact information of everyone involved needs to be obtained. Drivers, passengers, and witnesses should all provide their names, addresses, and phone numbers. Drivers should also show their insurance cards with their insurance company’s contact information and policy numbers as well. If someone nearby happened to see what happened, ask for his or her name and phone number too. An eyewitness can be helpful when pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.
For the police report, describe the make, model, and description of all vehicles involved in the crash. List all damage these vehicles sustained as well. Look for any defects that could have contributed to the accident, like burned out headlights or broken windshield wipers, for example.
It is important that injuries are recorded. Obviously, getting prompt medical attention is the top priority after an accident. Make notes of any injuries to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Since some injuries are not always immediately apparent and can worsen over time, it is generally a good idea to get checked out, even if no symptoms are immediately present. Keep medical records and prescriptions for records.
Additionally, the law enforcement officer on the scene will take statements from all drivers and witnesses at the scene. A driver should share his or her account of the accident and describe the events from a factual standpoint, without assigning any blame to themselves. It is also beneficial to make a note of the officer’s name or badge in case a driver needs to ask follow-up questions.
What Happens if the Police Do Not Come to the Scene of the Accident?
In larger communities, officers may not respond to a car accident unless there are injuries. In that case, a police report should be filed with the local police department or the state’s department of motor vehicles. A driver should report all the necessary information as previously stated. Without an officer present, it is a driver’s job to document the crash, such as photos of the vehicles and the accident scene.
If someone else was around to see the accident, record his or her witness statement using a mobile phone. Ask for his or her email or phone number in case more questions need to be asked in the future. If the other party is clearly at fault and ready to admit it, record his or her statement as well.
How Do I Get a Police Report?
Contact the local law enforcement office to get a completed copy of the police report. Sometimes, an officer at the scene will give a receipt number for the report, and a driver can request it that way. Otherwise, the clerk can usually locate it using the driver’s name, date of the accident, and location of the accident.
Most stations charge a small administrative fee to cover the costs of recording and copying a report. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for the officer to complete the police report and to make it available. An insurance company representative may also request a copy of the police report. A motorist should ask for a copy at no charge.
What if My Police Report is Wrong?
The officer arriving at the accident scene should take all the information to construct an idea of how the accident happened. However, a police officer does not always get a full picture of how the accident happened and who caused it. If a police report contains errors, do not hesitate to request a revision.
While police reports contain undeniable facts, like the date and location of the wreck, they also contain details that are more subjective. Each person has his or her own version of what happened and who is to blame. Those accounts are considered hearsay rather than facts, which is why most accident reports are not considered evidence in court cases.
While reports are not usually admissible in court, police reports can be used by police officers and insurance companies to determine liability. Law enforcement officers and insurance companies must make their own determinations about causation and liability based on what they find in the accident report.
Determining evidence for a case can be difficult, so it essential to obtain legal counsel. A lawyer will examine the facts of the case and fight to ensure that the injured victim receives all entitled compensation.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Help Car Crash Victims Seek the Justice That They Deserve
It is not always easy to prove someone caused a serious car accident, but one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers can help you with your case. A police report can help determine liability, so it is important to obtain one if you have been involved in a car accident. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we work tirelessly to help car accident victims obtain necessary compensation. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 757-352-2237. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve injured car accident victims throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.