Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

Do I Need to File a Car Accident Report With the Police?

This is another in our series on car accident claims. Many of us experience an accident, but do we really know what do to, how to get help, or what our rights are? This series can help.

It's normally the first or second question that pops up after a car accident, right after "Is everyone OK?" Before you're even exchanging insurance information, you're wondering whether you need to alert the police or highway patrol so they can file an accident report.

Maybe if you've just gotten a love tap at a stop sign you and the other driver (or your respective insurance companies) can sort out the details. But if there's any dispute about what happened, or if anyone has been injured, you're probably better off filing a police report. Here's why:

Documenting the Scene

Memories fade; recollections vary; and details get misremembered. But an accurate police report, documenting the evidence gathered just after an accident, can preserve the facts of the case in a way that a person's mind may not.

If the other driver later disputes who ran which stop sign, the police report can contain pictures or drawings of the position of the cars; if they contest the damage to vehicles, the report can attest to how extensive the collision was; and if they say no one was hurt, the report may contain interviews with everyone involved at the time.

These details may not seem important at the time, when calling the police sounds like a time-consuming hassle, but a police report can become crucial if your car accident claim ever goes to court.

Determining Fault

One of the biggest factors in a car accident claim is determining who was at fault for the accident. And one of the biggest tools in proving fault in a car accident is the police report. That's why it's not only important to make sure a police report is filed after your accident, but to make sure it's accurate -- read and review the accident report and request any revisions if need be.

While it is possible to file an injury claim without a police report, it may be more difficult to win your case without one. Depending on your state laws, you will need to prove someone else was at fault for your injuries, or at least more at fault than you were. And a good police report is often step one in proving fault in a car accident claim.

As such, it is one of the documents you'll want to show your attorney after the accident. And yes, if you've been injured in a car accident you should absolutely contact an experienced car accident attorney. Most attorneys are happy to consult with you about your case for free.

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