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How to Get a Police Report

Police reports are highly valuable documentation of a responding officer's investigation into the events that triggered the call to law enforcement. The creation of a police report is standard protocol for incidents like car accidents, crimes, and altercations. Depending on the type of report, it may also contain arrest information as well as body camera footage and audio, along with transcripts from the 911 call.

When a call is made to law enforcement, a police officer in the area is dispatched to the scene with the objective of subduing criminal activity, making arrests if appropriate, gathering information, and documenting their objective assessment of the situation. This may include interviewing parties involved and witnesses, taking notes, measurements, pictures, and securing evidence. Afterward, the officer compiles everything into a police report that should be available to interested parties afterward.

Suppose you've been involved in a personal injury incident where police were involved. In that case, you may wonder how a police report can help you win compensation from the wrongdoer. Morgan and Morgan can answer all your questions and provide you with vital legal representation to ensure you get meaningful compensation.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Information Is Typically in a Police Report?

    Police officers gather and document important data in a police report that is essential for insurance companies and any lawyer you intend to use for legal counsel. The goal of the police report is to ensure a comprehensive investigation into the facts surrounding the incident has been conducted.  

    A police report can be used to assist in criminal proceedings. Still, it can also be used by third parties to make decisions and as leverage when two parties can't come to a mutual decision. For example, when negotiating with an insurance adjuster who is on the fence concerning which party is at fault for a car accident, a police officer's opinion of the cause of the accident could hypothetically be a tiebreaker. After all, they saw the aftermath firsthand and have nothing to gain. Meanwhile, two parties arguing about fault have much to gain or lose, so their views concerning who is at fault may not be as reliable.

    Since there are many different law enforcement agencies across the country, it's hard to say what will be contained in a police report because there is no uniform standard. Still, generally, it will consist of facts, observations, and opinions, which may include the following:

    • Identifying information of all parties involved, including full names, date of birth, addresses, phone numbers, and driver's license numbers.
    • The time, date, and location of the incident.
    • Identifying information of the officer who compiled the report, including name, badge number, and agency, as well as identifying information of other officers who responded and may have contributed to the investigation.
    • Diagrams of the scene of the incident, including the location of road signs, merge lanes, and traffic lights if relevant.
    • Identifying information of witnesses plus their statements concerning the incident
    • The incident's case number
    • Proof of insurance, vehicle ownership, and registration information
    • The opinions and conclusions of the responding police officer
    • Law violations or citations
    • Documentation of property damage
    • Documentation of bodily injury
    • Any evidence that is taken into custody

    Police reports may also reference things like weather or environmental conditions if it applies to the incident.

  • How Do I Get Access to a Police Report?

    First, you need to know which law enforcement agency responded to your call. It could have been the city police department, county police or sheriffs, or state law enforcement, depending on the type of incident and where the incident occurred. Generally, after the responding officer has concluded the onsite investigation, you'll get some kind of incident receipt with your case number for reference.

    Depending on your preference, you could go to the agency in person or visit their website to obtain the finalized police report. Usually, you'll have guidelines for how long it will take. Still, since these agencies are often overwhelmed with cases, it's unlikely you'll get a guarantee of when it will be completed and available.  

    If you visit the agency in person, an administrative employee will tell you what is required to obtain the police report and the associated fees. However, these days, many people prefer to do things online for convenience. You'll have to search for the appropriate agency's website and look for a tab, likely called "public records, or "records department." However, since all agencies are different, it may take a little digging before you find the correct webpage to start the process.

    You'll then need to fill out the online form to initiate retrieval of the police report. Depending on how much time has passed since the incident, there may be a waiting period. It's not unheard of for police reports to take weeks or even months to become available, especially if the incident is complex or involves fatalities. Still, most police reports should be ready in one to five days.

    You'll likely be asked to create an account, which you can then use to check the status of the report. Once it's finalized and released, you should be able to download the document and view it. Keep in mind, though, if you intend to provide the official report to others like your insurance or a lawyer, they'll need copies.

    Not every police report is made fully public. For instance, if the incident involved an ongoing criminal investigation, you would unlikely have access to the full report until the investigation was concluded. Still, since police reports are generated by public law enforcement agencies, they have to uphold the law and make public records public at some time. If you were involved in an incident and are being stonewalled by the police department, have a lawyer contact them and remind them of your rights to this vital information. Morgan and Morgan can help.

  • What Information Do I Need to Acquire a Police Report?

    To expedite the process, especially if you go to obtain one in person, be prepared with the following information and a form of payment:

    • A valid photo ID, such as a driver's license
    • The date, time, and location of the incident
    • The name of involved parties, if known
    • The police report ID (this should be on the receipt the responding officer gave you at the time of the incident)
    • The payment for the police report

    The charge for police reports varies greatly across agencies and municipalities. You may be charged a standard fee and extra for a certain number of pages, multiple copies, transcripts, body camera footage, and audio. Typically, pricing will be available before processing your request, so you'll know what to expect.

  • What Should I Do if My Car Accident Report Is Delayed?

    While you hear so much about the importance of a police report (and it is important), sometimes circumstances cause a substantial delay in the release. So what do you do in the meantime? When you're in a car accident, one of the most important things to do is make sure you get medical attention. Use your health insurance to pay for the expenses initially, and usually, your car insurance carrier will sort out reimbursement with your healthcare provider.

    Documenting your injuries is crucial if you intend to seek compensation from the other driver. Don't wait until you get a police report to do this because insurance companies view delays in medical treatment as suspicious. After all, it's hard to claim you suffered serious injuries if you wait weeks to get treatment.

    Medical records and bills are used as the baseline for many personal injury lawsuits. While other losses are also calculated, like lost wages and property damage, your medical expenses are usually used to calculate other damages, like pain and suffering, which can be a substantial part of your award.  

    As for your vehicle, take it up with your insurance carrier as soon as possible. Even if you have to pay a deductible, that can be recovered once you file a claim against the other driver, assuming they were at fault for the accident. If your car was impounded, it doesn't make sense to wait for the police report, as you incur daily fees. In some cases, if you wait too long, they will auction the vehicle off to pay the impound fees. Suppose the other driver was uninsured or underinsured. In that case, you might be able to use uninsured/underinsured coverage from your policy if you have it. Unfortunately, if the other driver didn't carry insurance, you might be looking at covering the cost of the accident out of pocket because someone that doesn't carry insurance probably doesn't have assets worth protecting.

    Still, you shouldn't have to worry about making a claim to your own insurer if the accident wasn't your fault. While you may have to pay a deductible, it should not affect your premiums if you were not responsible for the accident. Even so, your insurance carrier will expect you to take the same steps as a third-party insurer would, including getting medical care if you intend to be compensated for injuries.

  • When Should I Talk to a Lawyer About a Police Report?

    Generally, you shouldn't need a lawyer simply to get a police report. However, you should contact Morgan and Morgan if you suspect your police report is being unlawfully withheld from you. Typically, police reports are only withheld if there is an ongoing criminal investigation or if the party involved is a minor. If you were involved in an altercation with the police, you should contact us immediately to protect your rights. We have lawyers specializing in cases involving police brutality, unlawful search and seizure, and other civil rights violations.

    If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit for another matter, don't wait until you get the police report to talk with us. We understand that it's challenging to navigate the legal process independently, so the sooner you get in touch, the sooner we can relieve you of the burden. In fact, the longer you put it off, the more detrimental it can be to your case.

    When you file an insurance claim, the insurance company will immediately begin its own investigation. It's essential to be aware that these investigations are centered around the idea of protecting the insurance company's interests, not yours. The more time they have to build a case against you, the more likely you'll be offered an inadequate settlement or none at all.  

    Likewise, they'll try to trap you into giving statements that can hurt your chances of recovering compensation. It's a known fact that insurance representatives are trained to get information out of you that can be turned around and used against you. Even benign questions that seem normal, like, "how are you recuperating" can be used to limit your ability to recover compensation if you answer the wrong way.

    That's why waiting for a police report before you talk to a lawyer isn't a good idea. The lawyers at Morgan and Morgan are experienced in a wide variety of legal matters. Whether you need help with a car accident, civil rights violations, or personal injury from an assault or property damage, we have experts specializing in these areas. As one of the biggest and most successful law firms, we have offices nationwide and more than 800 trial-ready lawyers waiting to help. Our services are free unless we recover compensation. Once we've secured a favorable settlement or winning verdict, our fees come as a percentage of that award.

    Contact us today for a free case evaluation regarding your legal concerns.

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