Why should I file a police report?
It is difficult to think clearly and act composed after an auto collision; your car may be damaged, you may be injured, or a loved one may be harmed. However, in order to get the compensation you deserve, it is important to file a police report immediately after the accident, regardless of the accident’s severity. Indeed, even if the vehicles and people involved do not seem harmed, you should still file a police report. Consider that not every injury presents symptoms immediately. Similarly, a car may not appear damaged at first, but may shows signs of problems a few days later.
You never know what the other parties involved will say about the accident a few days or weeks down the line – the officer and his report will act as an unbiased third party. It may be the most accurate and important tool in determining who is financially responsible for the car accident; if the insurance claim gets messy or if there is a lawsuit, an objectively documented evaluation of the accident can be of great value to you. A police report can protect you and increase your settlement amount.
Once you contact the police, a law enforcement officer will arrive at the scene of the accident and ask you a series of questions about what happened. The officer will interview the other drivers, passengers, and witnesses in order to get a comprehensive account of the accident. The officer will include information about the accident’s location, date and time, property damage, injuries sustained to the people involved, and witness statements. Be honest and detailed with the officer – do not admit fault and do not apologize. Also, make sure to get the relevant police officer’s contact information. This will come in handy if you forget some details at the scene of the accident and want to get in touch with him at a later time. Again, it is important to have a thorough report, so don’t be scared to call the officer to offer more information even a few days later. When the officer has collected enough information to make the report, he will submit the report to his department. Depending on the accident, the officer may also cite one or more drivers for traffic violations.
You will be able to obtain a copy of the report a day or two after it has been submitted. Often times, your car insurance company will ask you to forward a copy of the report for the claims process. The police report can act as an answer sheet to any questions or concerns your insurance carrier may have. It is important to remember, however, that just because you filed a police report doesn’t mean you must file a claim with your insurance company. That decision is up to you. In some cases, you may not want to involve your insurance company; if the damage is minimal and you can pay for the repairs, it may not be worth contacting your carrier. Once the insurance company is involved, your premiums may increase or, in a worst case scenario, you may be dropped at renewal time.
How do I obtain a police report?
Though some cities will allow police reports to be requested online or by mail, requesting it in person at the local police department may help speed up the process and provide an opportunity to ask further questions. In some jurisdictions, only someone directly involved in the auto accident will be able to request a copy of the police report, but in other areas, anyone is allowed to do so.
Once you are at the police department, go to the information desk or the records division. You will need to provide personal information, your current photo ID and address, and identifying details about the accident. Make sure that the contact information you leave with the officers is up to date because the police report, depending on the police department, can take up to a week to be located, processed, and copied.
You will also be required to pay a fee for the cost of copying and handling the report. The fee will depend on the city and size of the report. If there are a lot of pages or if extra information is included, the fee will be higher.
The police department should call you when your report is ready to be picked up. But, if you haven’t heard from the department after 7 days of the initial request, you may want to call the department to inquire about the status of the report.
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