How to Find Traffic Accident Reports
How to Find Traffic Accident Reports
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How to Find Traffic Accident Reports
Vehicle collisions are among the top safety risks for people living in the U.S. Year after year, traffic accidents consistently rank in the leading three causes of unintentional injury and death, according to data released from the Insurance Information Institute. (III) It's a legitimate source of concern for drivers, passengers, and their families and friends.
There may be a number of reasons why you want to know how to find traffic accident reports. You may be looking to build a case with your lawyer or insurance company, or you might be a family member or friend who hasn't heard from their loved one in a while and are concerned with their safety.
We're well versed in these scenarios at Morgan and Morgan. That's why we've put together this guide to assist you in finding the traffic accident report you need, regardless of the reason behind it. We'll also outline why traffic accident reports are critically important for any insurance claim or civil lawsuit.
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What Is a Traffic Accident Report?
Most people have heard of traffic accident reports, otherwise known as police reports. These are reports that document police findings concerning traffic-related incidents, including statements from the drivers, eyewitnesses, and police officers' own conclusions about the cause of the accident.
A traffic accident report is a vital piece of information that insurance adjusters will rely on heavily to assign fault for the crash. Commonly, the following details will be included in a traffic accident report:
- Details concerning the crash, including who is involved, the types of vehicles driven, and property damages
- Statements from anyone who was driving or saw the incident take place
- Diagrams and pictures of the collision, including the location, point of the crash, and direction each vehicle was traveling
- A police officer's conclusion as to how and why the collision occurred
How Can I Get a Copy of a Traffic Accident Report?
You typically have two options to obtain a copy of a traffic accident report. One is paid copy, and the other you can obtain from your insurance adjuster who is handling your claim. To go the paid route, you can ask the police enforcement agency whose officers attended the scene for a copy by providing the identification number you received and paying a modest administrative fee. Suppose you weren't provided an identification number. In that case, the report can usually be found by giving them the incident's date, time, and location along with your name. To get a free traffic accident report, you can usually request a copy from the insurance adjuster who is working on your claim. Whichever way you choose to get a copy, it may not be available for some time because the investigating officer will need time to complete and process the report.
What Kind of Information Will Be Available in the Traffic Accident Report?
If you've ever been in an accident, you've probably noticed how officers will spend time investigating the scene and talking to people involved and around the nearby vicinity. That's because the police officer is taking the necessary steps to document the scene so they can compile everything for their official report. A police report may consist of the following findings:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- Contact information for witnesses
- Contact and insurance information of individuals involved in the traffic accident
- Information concerning where damage is located on the vehicles
- Diagram of the accident
- Witness and driver statements
- Opinions on which parties were at fault or how the accident occurred
- Observations concerning weather, traffic, roadway, and visibility conditions at the time of the accident
- Citations for any violations of law, traffic, or otherwise
Does the Police Report Automatically Go to the Insurance Companies?
No, police reports do not automatically go to an insurance company. Instead, the insurance company will request this document because it is of great value in determining who was responsible for the accident. With that said, a police report is not the only thing that can be used to determine fault and the outcome of an insurance policy claim or personal injury lawsuit. Police officers are not supposed to take on the role of judge and jury and probably did not witness the accident.
Instead, a police officer's role at the scene of an accident is to document what is there. They may take pictures, talk to people, and take measurements, but ultimately, the conclusion as to who is at fault is up to insurance adjusters. When the fault is not apparent, it's crucial to get the help of a personal injury lawyer. At Morgan and Morgan, we've helped tens of thousands of accident victims get the compensation they deserve, even in no-fault states.
One thing we've learned through our more than 30 years of experience is that police reports are subject to argument and interpretation. In rare instances, there may even be factual errors in the police report, which opens up the opportunity to present challenges to its validity. When it comes to a trial, most police reports are not even accepted into evidence as, by virtue, the report is "hearsay" because the officer who made the statements in the report is not in the courtroom.
Police reports are not final or binding in any way. However, suppose the other party's insurance company is in possession of a police report. In that case, that usually indicates the other party has already notified them that there is something in the report they feel will help their argument. Under these circumstances, it's best to get legal representation because they are looking to saddle you with fault for the accident.
What Happens if I Don't File a Police Report After an Accident?
Considering there are millions of car accidents every year, police may not be able to get to a crash immediately or, under certain circumstances, even make it to the scene at all. Drivers who are involved in serious car accidents should always make an effort to go to the police station to file a report if no officer shows up at the scene. Otherwise, you may feel the consequences as you try to get compensation for injuries and property damage.
Even if you're in a minor fender bender, a traffic police report could make the difference between getting compensation or having your claim denied. When you file for an insurance claim, a lot of weight is put on hard evidence and official documents. If the other driver changes their story, it's just your word against theirs. Furthermore, the insurance companies may offer minimal payout and demand more evidence should the damage be substantial. These days, a busted bumper can run thousands of dollars, so almost any damage has the capacity to be considered substantial anymore. Do you really want to be on the hook for paying thousands of dollars for someone else's negligence?
How Long Do You Have to Report an Accident?
Many states give you between 3 and 10 days to file a report with the local police. Still, some require immediate notification. However, most states require you to call law enforcement to the scene if there is property damage of a certain value, and any injuries or fatalities. Generally, it's a good practice to call the police whenever you're involved in any type of traffic accident.
How Can I Find Out if My Family Member or Friend Was in a Car Crash?
When you're concerned about the well-being of a loved one, it's stressful to be in the dark. The most significant challenge comes from the fact that there is no single phone number or website you can access to get information. However, with some effort, you have multiple channels you can use to find out if someone you're concerned about was involved in a traffic accident, such as:
Local hospitals and medical providers - Checking out local hospitals and medical providers around the area where you're loved one may have been driving is the first step. Although medical professionals cannot divulge personal information about a patient due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) restrictions, typically, they can share whether or not someone is a "patient" at the facility. If they are listed as a patient, you can try to visit them. If your loved one isn't listed as a patient, their injuries may have been minor, and they were sent home.
Police departments - Local and state law enforcement departments may be able to give you limited information about recent motor vehicle accidents. If you contact them, they may be able to share if the person you're concerned about was involved in a traffic accident. However, the wheels of police agencies grind slowly, so if the accident was very recent, the information might not yet be available. Check back frequently if your loved one is still missing.
Other friends, family members, and personal contacts - Reaching out to other people who have a relationship with your missing person shouldn't be overlooked. It may be that the individual in question is simply taking some time on their own to process the accident or may not have been involved in a traffic accident at all if you can't find any official information on record. Generally, police will attempt to notify close relatives or emergency contacts in the event of a serious car crash. Usually, first responders will look for identification so that family members can be notified.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me With My Traffic Accident?
If you're interested in how to find traffic accident reports, you may increase your chances of having a successful insurance claim tremendously with the help of Morgan and Morgan Law Firm. Our traffic accident attorneys can assist in a wide variety of ways which may include:
- Communicating and negotiating with the other driver's insurance company
- Obtaining the evidence required to assign fault
- Collecting medical records and expense receipts related to the accident
- Communicating with your doctors, so injuries are well documented
- Negotiating with any lien holders such as medical providers until your claim is resolved
- Strategizing and developing a compelling argument to ensure your claim's successful outcome
One of the essential roles of a Morgan and Morgan personal injury lawyer is helping our clients win the compensation they are due after sustaining injuries and suffering losses. We do this through advocacy, legal counseling, negotiation, and, if necessary, by representing our clients in front of a judge and jury. While learning how to find traffic accident reports on your own is the first step, we have demonstrated tens of thousands of times that car accident victims stand to gain far more when they have a winning legal team on their side. There is no financial risk in using our services. If we don't win, you don't pay. Contact us today for a free case evaluation and to learn more about the difference Morgan and Morgan's legal representation can make.