Whether you’re in a fender-bender in exiting on-street parking or are T-boned by someone running a red light, the first thing you should do is call 911, even if nobody is injured. That way, the police can generate a traffic collision report that may prove helpful to you later on.
Why Should I Call 911 After an Accident?
It may seem like overkill, but there are some good reasons to notify public safety officials:
- Some states require you to call the police to report a crash.
- You may not be aware of injuries. Calling in the crash ensures that emergency medical personnel checks everyone out. Learn more about auto accident injury claims.
- Reports by the police are considered objective. This makes them an important source of information that influences cash payouts from insurance claims and court cases.
In some cases, the police may not come to accidents on private property. In that event, it’s best practice to go to either the local police station or DMV office to file an official report on your own.
Did your wreck involve a commercial vehicle? Get important information here.
What Information Is in a Traffic Collision Report?
The accident report includes a lot of relevant details, such as:
- Date and time of the accident
- Specific location, including city, county, landmarks, mile marker, road name or number and nearest cross street
- Weather conditions
- Driver’s name, address and phone number, driver’s license number and date of birth
- License plate number, make, model and year of each vehicle
- Passengers’ and third-party witnesses’ names, addresses and phone numbers. Officers may not be required to gather this information, but you can ask them to. If they refuse, try to get that information yourself.
Remember, if the police don’t respond, you should gather as much of this information as possible so you can file a report on your own.
Tip: While you’re waiting for the police, use your phone to take photos of driver’s licenses and license plates, damage and position of all vehicles.
How Long Do I Have to File a Traffic Collision Report?
It’s wise to file the traffic collision report as soon after the accident as you can while the details are still fresh. The official timeframes vary by state, so it’s important to check with an accident attorney or your state’s Attorney General’s office.
See the deadlines for filing auto accident lawsuits in each state.
How Can I Get a Copy of a Police Accident Report?
Ideally, the officer will give you their card with the traffic collision report ID number on it. It often takes a day or two for the report to be filed and then made available to you. This is an important step because law enforcement doesn’t file the reports with insurers or the courts.
You may also be able to get a copy directly from Carfax’s online accident reporting service.
Even seemingly small automobile accidents can require costly repairs or cause physical injury. Getting a police collision report is an important step in getting the cash payout you deserve. An experienced accident attorney can help.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online auto accident case evaluation now!
Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a content marketing agency based in North Carolina that provides services for international healthcare brands, tech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.