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Do I Need a Police Report After a Car Accident?

There are some instances where you won’t need a police report after a car accident, and there will be others where you will. There are deciding factors in the equation that will help you determine when you must file a police report.

Accidents happen and an average driver is likely to experience a vehicular accident a few or more times during their driving lifetime. Usually these accidents won’t involve loss of life or serious injuries, but any accident can traumatize a driver. No matter the accident’s magnitude, any repairs, large or small, will probably enter into the situation. With the chances of an accident happening, prepare ahead of time for what a police report entails and what justifies filing one.


State Laws

Every state has their own rules that determine when to file a police report. So, wherever you live will affect what you have to do concerning filing a report. One state ruling in Texas says that if a police officer arrives on the crash scene, that officer has to file a report within 10 days after the accident. From there, a copy of the report is usually available within 5-8 days after the filing. Additionally, if there is an injury, with damage over $1,000, an accident report is necessary and a peace officer will complete a crash report. In contrast, the state of Vermont requires that property damage reach at least $3,000 and that any injuries are taken into account. A written report is sent to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles within a 72-hour period of the accident occurrence.


When you Need a Police Report

An accident report is usually unnecessary when vehicle damage is minimal, injuries are non existent and the drivers involved carry insurance and legal licenses. When minor accidents occur, most interactions between drivers are usually civil, but all that can change once both drivers examine an accident more closely.  After the excitement has subsided, and those involved rehash what happened, and a medical issue or undetected damage surfaces, the whole view of a minor accident can change.

The facts can be vague even a few days after an accident. All this makes it imperative to file a police report at the time of the accident, minor or otherwise. There is no way of knowing whether a lawsuit will be in the mix down the road. If there is involvement with the police from the beginning, they will substantiate what has happened at the scene. They should be able to determine injured individuals, who was at fault, the extent of damages and the actual accident scene dynamics. When the police aren’t on the scene, it will be a case of your word against that of the other driver. That’s why it’s important to have complete documentation from the scene should legal matters come into play.

Besides written documentation, take pictures of your vehicle, the other vehicle, and the area around the accident. You can use the pictures as later evidence in case there is a lawsuit or there are direct questions by the police.


Making an Insurance Claim

If damage to your vehicle is limited, a police report will not be necessary to file a claim. A police report is only necessary when damage is extensive and you want compensation or a crime has taken place at the accident scene. It is, however, to your advantage to have a police report in hand to give to your insurance provider to speed up the claim process.


Accidents on Private Property

Accidents that occur on private property do not require filing a police report. Private property would be an individual’s home driveway, a shopping mall parking lot, or an individual’s business, such as a motel. With that in mind, it will be your responsibility to gather pertinent information to file an insurance claim. If you do contact the police, they will ask you the location or address of the accident. They will further inform you whether the police will come to the area or provide a report if the location happens to be private property. Any police report is going to be for accidents that happen on highways, city and county roads or other streets.


Other Instances of Non-reporting

Police reports only document what happens in accidents involving two or more individuals and their vehicles. Also, a report is only necessary when extensive property damage or injuries occur. A single vehicle collision such as running into a light pole does not justify calling for a police report. You simply assess and document the damage and contact your insurance company.

In certain situations and instances, filing a police report according to your individual state laws may be necessary. If you’re unsure as to the requirements in your state, or you just have general questions, complete the online contact form and a representative will get back to you with the answers you need to make an informed decision.

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