How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident
After an incident that leaves you injured, obtaining your police report may seem like the farthest thing from your mind, but having a copy of a police incident report is a key step toward compiling the evidence you may need to prove a legal claim. If you do not have an attorney, you’ll need to go through the steps to obtain a copy of your police report yourself; if you do have a lawyer, they will be able to take care of this for you. The attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP will even send someone to pick up your police report in person, meaning that you’ll have this crucial piece of evidence in hand faster.
Why Do You Need a Police Accident Report?
If you were recently in a car accident, having your own copy of the police report is vital because it contains crucial information about your case, such as:
- The contact information for all parties involved
- Descriptions of how and where the car accident occurred
- Whether or not citations were given
- Indications of who was deemed at fault for the accident
Having all of this information can help prove your side of the story if you choose to bring the case to court.
How to Obtain a Copy of a Police Report
There are three main ways to get a copy of a police accident report:
- Call the police agency that created the report to request a copy by mail.
- Go to the police department in person to get a copy of your police report.
- You may also be able to request a copy of your police report online.
Depending on the state where the incident took place, you might also be able to request a copy of your police report from the state DMV.
No matter which option you go with, there’s usually a fee associated with it, and unless you go in person, you may have to wait a few days to get the physical copy.
How to Get a Police Report Online
Depending on the police agency that responded to your accident, you may be able to request a police incident report online. Most larger police agencies have a form on their website that you can submit to request a police report. However, keep in mind that this may or may not be faster than calling or going in person to ask for your report. Some departments will email a police report to you, but many won’t, meaning that you’ll still have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.
The other option is to get a police report online from a service like BuyCrash.com or Crashdocs. These sites have databases of car accident police reports and allow people to obtain a police report online if they can prove that they are connected to the accident and pay a fee.
How to Get a Police Report on Yourself for Another Type of Incident
The process of getting your police report is much the same whether the incident in question is a car accident or any other type of situation that required police involvement. You will need to contact the law enforcement agency to file a request, and you will likely need to pay a fee.
In most places, you are only able to get a copy of a police report for an incident that you were involved in, so you will need to provide identification proving that you have a right to a copy of the report. You’ll also need to decide how you want your report to be delivered to you.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Police Report?
The amount of time it takes to get a police report will depend in part on how your request is submitted. Typically, police reports can take a week or two to arrive in the mail once you request them. However, if you hire an attorney with Parker Waichman, we’ll send someone to collect your report in person, which is much faster. This will make it easier to collect witness statements while the details of the event are easier to recall.
What Does a Police Report Look Like?
The exact look of a police report can vary depending on the format used by the issuing agency. However, every police report will contain the names and contact details of everyone involved in the incident. The officer filing the report will often collect statements from everyone involved, and these will be used for the narrative portion of the police report, which attempts to give an accurate and unbiased accounting of the details surrounding the event. The police report usually lists those who provided supplemental information for the narrative portion and may document their relationship to those who were involved.
How to Read a Police Report
A police report form will usually start with boxes or lines containing the identifying information about everyone involved. If the report is documenting a criminal act, it will have a description of the suspect as well as a description of the person who reported the crime and any other witnesses. These descriptions contain names, addresses, ages, and features like height, weight, and hair color. If the report is documenting a car accident, it will list the details of everybody in each vehicle involved as well as the make and model of each vehicle.
After the identifying information, there will be details about the location where the crime or accident occurred. In a report based on a traffic accident, the police will assign each vehicle a number, such as “Vehicle 1” or “Vehicle 2,” and they may also include diagrams showing where each vehicle was damaged.
The report will also contain a narrative section, which is a detailed report of what happened, written out in chronological order. The narrative will be compiled based on the descriptions of everyone involved and the officer’s own observations.
Throughout a police report, you may see a variety of abbreviations and/or numerical codes used. If this is the case, the report will usually include a key that explains what these mean.
Are Police Reports Public Record?
Whether or not police reports are public record can vary by state and depend on the type of report in question, but generally, they are not public. Police reports in New York are generally only provided to those involved in the incident. Some details may also be provided to others with a legitimate interest, such as journalists.
How Can You Build the Strongest Possible Legal Case After a Car Accident?
If you’re considering pursuing a legal claim to get compensation for your injuries after an accident, our experienced attorneys can help. We’ll send an investigator to pick up your police report in person so you can have this important piece of evidence in hand as soon as possible. We’ll also work hard to thoroughly investigate your case and secure testimony and documentation to support your claim.
You could try to handle your case on your own, of course, but you should know that injury victims recover more than three times more compensation when they are represented by a lawyer, according to a 2004 Insurance Research Council study. Research has shown time and time again that having a skilled attorney on your side makes a huge difference in the courtroom and in settlement negotiations. And since we work on a contingency-fee basis, you’ll take on no financial risk when you work with a Parker Waichman attorney: We don’t get paid unless you get compensation.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, call Parker Waichman today at 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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