When you are in a car accident, there are laws about whether you should report the incident to the police, depending on which state you are in. In the case of a serious accident where a severe injury, fatality, or major damage occurs, it is likely the police will attend and will write an official report. However, they may not attend if the crash causes minor injuries and little damage.
If you want to make an insurance or compensation claim, you should call the police after a car accident or file a report with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state. This is a significant piece of evidence that can prove crucial in your case. If the police attend the accident, a report will automatically be filed with the DMV, so you won’t have to.
What is a crash report?
The crash report summarizes what occurred at the scene of the incident and is vital evidence if you wish to pursue a personal injury claim.
Typical details include:
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Name and contact details of the parties involved
- Name and contact details of any witnesses to the accident
- The damage to the vehicles involved
- The weather, road, and lighting conditions at the scene
- Diagrams of the accident
- Photos of the scene
- Statements from all parties and witnesses
- Violations of law
- The cause of the accident, in the police officer’s opinion.
Therefore, the evidence written in the report is the foundation of your claim. Insurance companies use this information to determine who is at fault for the car accident and how much compensation should be offered.
How to get a copy of your crash report
A crash report is confidential and, therefore, not available to the general public. To obtain a copy of your crash report, you would need to request it from the DMV or Department of Transport (DOT) in your state.
Anyone involved in the accident can request this information, or those with a “proper interest,” such as the parent or legal guardian of a minor involved, an employer, or an attorney.
You will need to complete some information to prove you are legally entitled to access the report, and there is usually a small fee for the document. Every report will be assigned a number, and you can request this from the police department that filed the report. Alternatively, your car accident lawyer can request the number and the report on your behalf.
The information in my crash report is wrong
Knowing how important the crash report is, if any of the details are incorrect, you will need to contact the police to ask them to amend it.
If the details that need to be changed are factual errors, such as the spelling of a name, an incorrect registration number, or the wrong date, then it should be fairly easy for them to make the correction.
It may be more difficult to change details on the report, such as the cause of the accident, the other driver’s behavior, or any disputed information.
If this is the case, there are a few steps to take to get the report changed.
- Be polite and respectful to the police officer — they will be more likely to change the report if you treat them kindly.
- Act fast — police officers deal with hundreds of car accidents every year. The sooner you contact them, the more likely they will be able to change your report.
- Provide evidence — such as medical reports.
- Give a detailed statement — include photos or other documentation about the accident and any injuries.
- Hire a car accident lawyer — a request from them may hold more weight.
A personal injury or car accident lawyer can assist you in many other ways. They will help you understand the crash report, for instance, what specific violation codes mean.
Violation codes give a wealth of information you might not have been aware of, such as the at-fault driver could have been speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, using their cell phone, or asleep at the wheel when the accident occurred. This information will likely help you win your personal injury or car accident claim.
Your attorney can also help you write a statement detailing your account of events, as they will know what you need to include. They can also help you get the compensation you deserve for loss of earnings, medical bills, pain, and suffering, and any other loss the accident caused you.