Nobody expects to be in an auto accident, but it can happen to even the most careful and law-abiding drivers. Everyone who has been in a crash remembers the shock and initial fear, followed by other uncomfortable feelings, often including pain and anger. Knowing how traumatic it can be to be involved in an accident makes it even more important to prepare yourself for what can happen and understand the procedures you will need to stay within the rules and protect yourself after an accident.
Accident Report Laws in Arizona
Everyone who drives a motor vehicle on any Arizona road is required to carry insurance and follow the state laws, including the laws regarding accident reports. Not everyone involved in an accident is required to have a report, but the police must file a report on any accident where
- damages exceeded $1,000,
- a citation was injured to one of the parties involved in the accident,
- one of the parties in the accident was injured, even if the injuries were relatively minor,
- or someone died in the accident.
Unlike some states where individuals are responsible for filing the reports themselves, Arizona leaves the filing to trained law enforcement officers. One thing to keep in mind is that you may not know the extent of the damages or injuries right away, so it is always safer to get a report on file so you have proof of what happened and what the parties reported at the time.
The Accident Report
Accident reports are filed in different locations depending on who investigated the accident. If a trooper investigated the accident on an interstate or state highway, your report will be filed with the Department of Public Safety. Otherwise, your report will be filed with the local agency that had jurisdiction at the time, whether it was a town, city, or county location.
Accident reports are like worksheets where officers fill in the blanks with all the information collected at the scene. Driver information will include name and identifiers, license number, and insurance policy. There will also be detailed information about every vehicle involved in the crash, including registration, color, and exactly what damages can be seen. Passenger and witness information is collected with contact information, and the details of the accident will be included with a diagram showing how the accident occurred.
The police accident report has a great deal of compelling evidence, with everything from witness statements to the officer’s conclusion about how the accident happened. When you are in an accident, you need to make sure the officer gets any information that will help to prove you were not at fault in the accident.
Can you file a police report days after an accident?
It is obviously better to file as soon as possible after an accident, while the evidence is still fresh and nothing has been moved more than necessary. If you do not stay at the scene of the accident, you can suffer serious repercussions under Arizona law. If the accident doesn’t require a report, you have the minimum duty of sharing your license and insurance information with the other driver. If you fail to stay at the scene of a crash requiring a police report, you can suffer punishments of imprisonment, fines, and/or license suspension.
The easiest way to get an officer to the scene is to dial 911 because that will get you in touch with the relevant local authorities. If law enforcement does not consider your accident an emergency, it may take them a little while to get there. That could happen if there is only significant property damage, for instance. After the officer collects the information, he or she will turn it in within 24 hours, and it will be available to you and your insurance company soon after that.
The Accident Report as Evidence
Instead of asking yourself how long after an accident can you file a police report, ask yourself how well you can be prepared so that the accident report will reflect favorably on you. Keep your insurance policy and license handy, regularly refresh yourself on the road rules, and stay aware when driving. If you are in an accident, stay at the scene and check for witnesses.
Even if the damage was minor, you can protect yourself from unreasonable claims by getting an accident report. If a dishonest person decides to hold you responsible for things that were already wrong with the vehicle, an accident report can prove that the damages did not happen when your vehicles collided. The report will also provide evidence from the officer about the scene that you can use to prove you were not totally at fault.
Under Arizona’s comparative fault laws, you want to make sure you have documented evidence about the role you played in the accident. You may also have difficulty getting your claim paid through your own insurance company if there is no police report.
Get Someone On Your Side Right Away
We at Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC have been assisting our clients with every kind of accident for five decades, successfully helping them navigate their way through the complex legal system and recover damages for their injuries. Every client receives the same high-quality service and treatment, and we make sure each one is kept aware of everything that happens throughout the life of the case. If you have been involved in an accident, don’t wait to get advice. Our experienced attorneys will speak to you for free, with no obligation, so you can make an informed decision as to how you want to proceed.