In the aftermath of an automobile accident a hundred different worries and thoughts will be crossing your mind. “Am I injured?” “Are my loved ones injured?” “What about the driver of the other vehicle?” “What exactly happened anyways?”
In the midst of this stress and uncertainty it can be difficult to remember to take the necessary steps to protect your legal rights and ability to recover in the event of an insurance claim. One of the best facilitators for reminding you of your rights in these situations will often be first responders such as police officers. While police officers are responsible for securing the scene of the accident and ensuring everyone is unharmed or receives appropriate medical care, they can also document the accident by creating a police report. Police reports are frequently misunderstood documents that can have a potentially big impact of your legal case and insurance claim and you should be informed as to what this document actually does in the event you find yourself on the filing end after an accident.
Is a Police Report Legally Required in the Event of an Accident?
Absent unusual circumstances, you are not legally obligated to file a police report in the event of an automobile accident. However, do not leave the scene as you could be charged with hit and run! While you may not actively seek to file a report, if police respond to the scene of an accident they will often take statements, pictures and make diagrams documenting the circumstances surrounding the accident and will use these facts to unilaterally create a police report. The exception is if there is suspected criminal activity or the other driver fleeing the scene of the accident. In both cases a police report may be required under separate laws involving documentation and reporting of crime.
Benefits of a Police Report
A police report can be a useful tool in your potential insurance claim following an accident, as an auto accident lawyer Atlanta GA relies on can explain. Details surrounding how and why the accident occurred are usually the clearest immediately after an accident has occurred. Police can take witness statements and ensure evidence such as intersection, vehicle location or the presence of skid marks, is thoroughly documented. This, in turn, can help insurance companies determine liability or who was at fault. Filing a police report is also helpful for collecting witness statements since over time witnesses become harder to locate and also suffer from memory degradation as the time after the accident stretches on.
Other Reporting May be Required
While you may not be required to file a police report, it’s important to note that you may need to report or otherwise document the accident with the DMV or other licensing agency. Most states have rules that require all accidents to be reported once certain damage threshold limits are crossed. Failure to file the proper report with the DMV or other licensing agency can cause your driver’s license to be suspended, your car impounded or other serious consequences.
While you won’t need a police report in order to file an insurance claim after an accident, it may be a valuable tool if you need to prove liability, obtain witness statements or otherwise secure the evidence needed in order to have protect your legal rights. It also prevents you from being charged with hit & run. If you have questions about your accident, the claims process or one of the myriad of issues in between, you should remember that you are free to consult qualified legal counsel to help guide you and educate you on your rights.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into car accident injury practice.