How do You Get a Police Report From a Car Accident?
If you’ve ever been in an accident, the first thing you need to do is contact the police. Besides for directing traffic if you cannot move your vehicles, they also get statements from the drivers, passengers, and witnesses. The police report from the accident is one of the most critical documents in a car investigation and insurance lawsuit.
Therefore, we want to address how to get a police report and how the court uses this information in a court of law. If after reading this article you still have trouble getting the police report, then feel free to contact us.
HOW DO YOU GET A POLICE REPORT?
There are three ways to get a police report for a car accident.
#1. Accident Site
The first way to get a police report is at the scene of the crash. Typically, the investigating officer asks you a number of questions about the accident. They then give both sides a copy of the police report.
#2. Request a copy from the police
If you do not get a copy of the police report at the accident or you lose it, then you have to pay the local law-enforcement office for the document.
Most cities charge a nominal administrative fee for your report. For example, it costs $12 in San Diego to get a copy of your police report.
Have your accident identification number, date, time and location of the accident, so they can find the correct document.
#3. Ask your insurance company
Check if your insurance company got a copy of the police report. Often the insurance company requests a copy besides the one they received from you to ensure the file you sent is complete.
WHAT IS IN THE POLICE REPORT
Most police reports contain many of the following items:
- Collision date, time, and location
- Contact and identity of the parties in the car accident.
- Phone numbers
- Insurance information
- Any witness names and contact information
- Vehicle damage illustration showing damaged areas of both cars
- Weather, road, and lighting conditions at the crash
- Accident diagram
- Statements (both parties and witnesses)
- Any citations or violations of law
- The officers’ opinions as to cause of the collision and at-fault determination
Every city has a different report, but many have similar questions. However, you do not want to rely exclusively on the police report. That is why it is essential for you to collect information from the crash from the other party as well as any witnesses on the scene.
Also, you should take photos of the crime scene with your smartphone whenever possible.
IS ALL THE INFORMATION IN THE REPORT FACTUAL OR OPINION?
The police report is written by an enforcement officer who bases their opinion on specific facts in the case. Because the investigating officer is a trained third-party bystander, those opinions hold more weight.
That said, both insurance companies also come to their own decision on the matter. Usually, the insurance companies have an investigator determine what happened in the accident. If all sides do not agree, that is when the case gets brought into court.
HOW DOES A POLICE REPORT WORK IN COURT?
Judges often allow police reports in small claims court. Usually, both sides represented themselves pro se (without an attorney) in a small claims court. The judge wants an accurate, non-biased report of the incident.
The same is not does not hold true for the State Superior or Circuit Court.
Usually, in these court cases, the judge considers the police report hearsay evidence. Hearsay is when someone was not there at the time of the incident and does not have direct knowledge of the event.
The fault determination is the opinion of the police officer. It is not an assertion made in a court of law. Since prosecutors have to charge a person with a crime, California does not consider police records a public document like a court record.
It can be brought in as evidence in the case but is often part of a police officers’ testimony.
HOW CAN WE HELP WITH YOUR CAR ACCIDENT SETTLEMENT?
If you have a police report from your accident and need help understanding what to do next, our Carlsbad car accident attorneys can help you. With close to $50 million in recovered settlement monies, we are experts at reviewing police reports.
Contact us today at (760) 642-5475 for a free review of your car accident report today.