If you have had an accident in which you were injured or a vehicle or other personal property damaged you may be considering making a personal injury claim or an insurance claim if your property was damaged.
In some situations, you are so badly injured or shocked by the accident that you are unaware whether the police were involved and whether you should get a copy of any report that they made about the accident.
Why Police Reports are Important in Personal Injury Claims
Police reports are vitally important because they state who was at fault for an accident, particularly in an auto accident.
You should use a personal injury attorney to advise you about the process of making a claim and you may retain them to help you pursue the claim. The attorney will help you obtain a police report as it may prove to be useful evidence when negotiating with the party at fault or their insurer.
It is unlikely that a police report by itself will be enough if you have to go to court but it can certainly useful information about the accident including the other party(ies) involved, whether the other party had a traffic violation or was arrested. It may also have useful information about witness statements from those who may have been present and would be able to testify about the reasons for the accident.
Obtaining a Police Report
You will need to know which police department or law enforcement agency dealt with the accident you were involved in. If you were not taken away at the time of the accident in an ambulance you may have got these details when police officers arrived at the scene, otherwise you may be able to find the agency in a phone book or on the Internet.
When you have contacted them and confirmed that a report was made about your accident you can request a copy of the report. You may have to pay a small fee to cover photocopying and you may also have to appear in person to show your identification before you get the report. Some agencies will be prepared to mail a copy of a police report to you directly.
What if You Think the Information in the Report was Incorrect?
It is sensible to read the police report carefully to make sure that the details are correct. Things like names and addresses and make of vehicle, date and time, if incorrect, may be important in actual negotiations with the defendant or their insurer. If these are left unchanged, it may be easier for the defendant to avoid any liability.
Factual details like these can usually be rectified by the officer who made the report. What usually cannot be changed so easily is the officer’s impression about what had gone wrong or any decision about who was at fault or whether carelessness was involved.
Your attorney may be able to gather more crucial evidence supporting your claim using the police report, especially if witnesses were mentioned and you were not able to get their contact details yourself at the time of the accident.