If you’re involved in an auto accident that’s more than just a minor fender-bender, it’s important that you contact the police and first responders, especially if someone has been injured. And when law enforcement gets involved, it usually means that there will be a police report filed on the incident.
Here’s what you need to know about your legal rights regarding police reports after a car accident, including why you should get a copy, how you can get it, and how the report can help your personal injury case.
Why You Should Get a Copy of the Police Report
The police report after an accident can be a supremely useful piece of information for you and your attorney when building your personal injury suit. Though the police report isn’t usually admissible as a piece of evidence in a civil trial, it is a impartial list of facts of the situation as recorded by a law enforcement professional who is familiar with what information needs to be written down. It is a central list of information that you and your counsel can refer to, and will contain facts such as:
- The exact date, time, and location of the accident.
- The prevailing weather and road conditions at the time.
- Details about the vehicles involved in the accident.
- Observations on what happened and who may be at fault.
- Information about the people involved and any injuries sustained.
- Witness names, statements, and contact information.
Even if nobody is injured in the accident, a police report is still valuable information to have. When trying to settle claims for property damage, such as the repair or replacement of your vehicle, insurers may try to counter by blaming the victim—but the police report may have the information your attorney needs to shut them down in a court of law.
It’s important to note, though, that sometimes police reports aren’t required, and the facts of the case speak for themselves. And sometimes, police reports can be vague, poorly written, or unhelpful, based on the experience or inclinations of the officer who responded to the call at the time. Incorrect information occasionally shows up in a police report, too. Simple matters of factual error can often be disputed with relative ease, but disputing a faulty assessment can be far more difficult. If this is the case, you should discuss the issue with your attorney and plan your next legal steps.
Your Right to a Copy of the Police Report
You have a legal right to obtain a copy of a police report from the agency that made the report. To request a copy, contact the agency (such as the local police, county sheriff, or highway patrol) that responded to your accident. You may be able to request a copy of the report online. Some agencies do still require that you pick up the report in person, but others may mail a copy to you; it’s up to you to find out the procedures used by your local law enforcement agency. The report may be provided for free, but some agencies may charge a small fee to cover the cost of duplication or mailing.
Get Legal Help After Your Car Accident
Ultimately, your attorney will be able to help you determine whether you need a copy of the police report, and what to do next with regards to your personal injury case. He or she will be able to assess the facts of your case, investigate the evidence, work to negotiate your settlement with the insurance companies, and present your case before a jury if no settlement can be reached.
If you’ve been hurt in a serious car accident, Wayne Wright LLP is here to help you. We’ve spent decades fighting for the rights of those who have been injured due to negligence, carelessness, or recklessness on the streets, and we’d like to hear from you today. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney, call Wayne Wright LLP by telephone, use our contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on this page right now.