In the moments after a car accident, your first priority is to secure the safety of yourself and your passengers. Call emergency personnel immediately and, when possible, move your vehicle to the side of the road. Once you’re out of harm’s way, your next objective is to file a police accident report.
If you or your passengers were injured or your vehicle sustained damage, you need to file a car accident report. An accident report can build the foundation for your personal injury claim. Once you file the police report, you should obtain a copy for yourself. If you’re unsure how to file and/or gain a copy of your police report, consider the following steps.
With the help of a trusted car accident injury attorney, a police report can protect your right to compensation after an accident.
How to File a Car Accident Report
Car accident reports are mandatory in Arizona if your damages are more than $1,000. But even if your vehicle only suffered minor property damage, you must file a report to protect your right to file an insurance claim.
To file a car accident report, dial 911 as soon as possible after the crash. The emergency operator will dispatch police and rescue personnel to the scene of your accident. Once they arrive, the responding officer will take statements from yourself, your passengers, the other driver, and any witnesses.
As you file a car accident report, the police officer will recover evidence from the scene of the crash. This will help the officer determine who was at fault. All of this information is included in the official report.
What’s in a Motor Vehicle Crash Report?
Each law enforcement agency issues a similar motor vehicle crash report. In the state of Arizona, you can expect a crash report to contain key details about the accident, including the time and date of the crash. The document will also contain your name and contact information, such as your phone number, as well as your driver’s license number and car insurance information. So long as the accident wasn’t a hit and run case, the crash report will also contain the name and contact information of the other driver and/or victims at the scene.
Other items typically featured in a motor vehicle crash report include:
- A simple diagram of the accident scene
- Witness statements detailing the accident
- The investigating officer’s name, agency, and ID number
- The results of alcohol and/or drug tests of all involved drivers
- Details about the vehicles, including the make, model, and license plate numbers
- Details about the surroundings of the crash, such as traffic lights, signage, or notable landmarks
- Details about the roadway where the crash happened, such as a highway, two-lane street, one-way street, etc.
- A thorough description of how the accident occurred, including its “first harmful event,” “most harmful event,” and “prime contributing factors”
How to Get a Certified Copy of a Car Accident Report
In most cases, you can obtain a certified copy of your car accident report from the responding officer at the scene of the crash.
However, it may take up to 24 hours for the official report to be finalized. In case you do not receive a copy of the police report on the day of the accident, most car accident reports are available 14 days after the date of the crash.
You can obtain a certified copy of the report by filing a request form. You can file a request form in person or online.
- In-Person: Go to your local police station and request a copy of your car accident report
- Online: Fill out an online police department records report request form
Bear in mind, some fees may apply for obtaining a copy of your police report. These fees are generally under $15.
Why You Need a Copy of Your Car Accident Police Report
A police report is essential to any car accident injury case. In the panic of a crash, so many victims either forget or are physically unable to obtain key evidence about their accident. Details such as contact information, witness statements, and even car insurance information can become lost in the shuffle. An official police report gathers all the necessary details in one convenient place.
Often, a police report also serves as the starting point for investigations. Both insurance companies and car accident lawyers review the accident report’s findings. All motor vehicle accident reports contain a narrative description of how the accident occurred. The responding officer also includes what they viewed as the “most harmful event” in the crash.
This analysis can define the proximate cause of the wreck, which determines which individual was at-fault. An official police report is also key in determining who should have the financial responsibility of paying for the accident damages and the extent of the injuries.
To Prove Legal Liability
A car accident report gathers all of the basic information about the other vehicles and motorists involved in your accident. You, your car insurance company, your attorney, and your health insurance company may need this information to prove liability.
The report records the on-scene accounts of the accident, as told by all drivers, passengers, witnesses, and law enforcement officers. These details not only help prove what caused the accident, but they also lay the foundation for who has legal liability in paying for the resulting damages.
To Prove the Extent of Damages
There are several devastating effects of a car accident, from severe property damage to serious bodily injury. A police report documents obvious injuries from the accident. This documentation can serve as direct evidence that the accident was responsible for your damages.
An accident report is especially helpful when dealing with the insurance company. Insurance companies often question the extent of a victim’s injuries in order to pay less in compensation. Whiplash, for example, is a severe injury that may not display itself the way bruising or a broken bone would. So, an insurance company may attempt to minimize the extent of the damages. But, if a police report states a victim experienced neck pain at the scene or felt their body forcefully jerk forward during impact, both can concretely prove whiplash after an accident.
How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help
While a police report is an excellent starting point for building a personal injury case, you still need a qualified car accident attorney by your side.
The reasoning is simple: although a police officer’s view of the accident is reliable, it’s only one person’s analysis. Law enforcement personnel do receive training and have in-the-field experience documenting and describing car accidents, but there’s only so much one individual can gain at the scene of the crime.
An attorney can locate eyewitnesses, access street camera footage, and gather recordings of the accident from neighboring businesses. Plus, a car accident lawyer can hire expert witnesses to recreate the crash based on the diagram of the accident. This can provide a much better translation of what truly occurred.
Not to mention, an accident report doesn’t necessarily record all injuries. Delayed pains after an accident are incredibly common, especially when the shock of the incident wears off. Only after an accident can a victim discover the nature and extent of the harm they sustained. A trusted personal injury attorney can fight for your right to compensation for injuries, even when those injuries weren’t directly cited in your accident report.
Contact a Phoenix Car Accident Attorney Today
Auto accident injury attorneys spend the majority of their workdays evaluating the facts and circumstances of car crashes. They know their way around a police report, including what it shows, what it doesn’t, and what impact it could have on your personal injury case. If you’re unsure how to obtain a police accident report, or you want to know the impact the report could have on your claim, seek a free consultation today.