The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that an average of 6 million auto accidents occur each year in the United States. That is one accident every five seconds of every day.
Law enforcement is often first to arrive on the scene. Their presence is crucial in coordinating emergency response teams and recording key information about the accident. Whether it is as simple as a fender bender, or something as serious as injury or loss of life, the resulting police report contains critical information the auto accident lawyer needs to recover damages and settle claims.
What is in a Police Report
Once the scene has been secured, law enforcement conducts an investigation into the accident and compiles the information into a report. This report contains:
- Date, time and location
- Identification of parties involved
- Vehicle descriptions (year, make, model and color)
- Injury reports
- Property damage reports
- Road and weather conditions
- Contributing factors- speed, wildlife, faulty equipment etc.
- Drawn diagram of scene
- Officer’s opinion on cause based on evidence, actions and witness statements
- Results of field sobriety tests or medical reports on impairment when applicable
The accident report may take several days to complete. In cases where a serious auto accident injury has occurred, law enforcement will follow up with victims at the hospital and include condition updates in the final report.
How to Obtain a Police Report
Some jurisdictions limit access to accident reports, while others make them available to the public or charge a small document fee. Contact the responding agency to establish their guidelines, and have the following information ready:
- Accident location, date and time
- Responding officer’s name and badge number (if available)
- Personal identification
Most agencies handle these claims on-line, but some may require hard-copy requests. If a claim has been filed, contact the insurance company. They may already have a copy of the official police report.
If police were not dispatched to the scene of the accident, an in-person report can be filed with the nearest police department. Bring the following information:
- Date, location and time of accident
- Names and phone numbers of drivers involved
- Insurance information
- Witness information (names, phone numbers)
- Photos of the scene and vehicles