Tips for Filing a Police Report After a Car Accident

Protect yourself from liability claims by reporting car collisions

It’s imperative to file a police report following a car accident. All of us know that, but many people still think that they can get away with not filing. My husband actually found out the hard way after he was involved in a car accident last year. The other driver was at fault, but he chose to take personal payment for fear (the other driver’s) of getting his insurance company involved. Low and behold, 10 months later he was contacted by an attorney when the other driver complained of back pain resulting from the same auto accident.

A police report does more than collect information so your insurance company can collect money (if the accident was your fault) or alter your coverage. A proper police report actually does its part to protect all parties involved in a car collision by making sure all the details of the car accident are reported. Sure, filing a police report following an accident also provides your insurance company with the hard facts on how to properly handle your claim, but it will also ensure you are protected should any legal problems arise during the months or year after the car accident.

Now that you understand the important, let’s discuss the steps you can take to file an accurate and detailed police report after suffering a car accident:

1. The size of your accident doesn’t matter
Regardless of if you’re involved in a 10 car pile-up or a fender bender with only minor damage to your vehicle-it’s vital to ensure an accident report is filed with the police. Oftentimes, injuries rear their ugly heads months after an accident where something as small as a parking lot collision can cause a person to suffer neck injuries that will interfere with their job. Protect yourself, even if there are no injuries apparent at the time of the car accident, by calling the police to take a report.

2. Be honest
Following a car collision it’s understandable to be a bit shaken up. And if you think the accident may be your fault, you might leave certain details out if you think you’ll be in trouble or have to pay to fix the other driver’s vehicle. However, if you get caught in a lie (remember there may be witnesses and the other driver is filing their report as well) you could cause more trouble for yourself (i.e., you could end up with a fine or in jail) or you could delay the insurance claims process.

3. You can file a police report and NOT an insurance claim
Oftentimes drivers involved in accidents will agree to handle the damages personally rather than getting their insurance companies involved-especially if they think their rates will rise. However, you can and should file a police report even if you agree to take payment from the at fault driver. A police report guarantees a legally documented description of the accident should an injury or other related circumstances arise later.

4. If a police officer is not available
Oftentimes when a small accident occurs, the police department will not dispatch a police officer to cover the accident if they are busy. However, even if the police don’t arrive to take an accident report themselves, you should still document the accident and damages thoroughly by:

  • Taking witness statements and collecting their contact information
  • Taking photos of the damage and scene with your cell phone
  • Recording a written statement and filing it with the police department as soon as possible