Reports Have High Impact on Car Accident Cases
In most car accident cases, the police accident report plays a crucial role in determining who was at fault. Insurance adjusters as well as car accident lawyers usually accept it as the most accurate assessment of the accident, not without conducting their own investigation first though. Therefore, it is important to get an accident report if you are going to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit as soon as it is available.
A police accident report is created by the police officer who responds to an accident scene. But because of the high number of traffic accidents in the cities and the limited number of police officers available, police departments seldom respond to minor accidents without injuries and damages. Normally, police officers are dispatched to accident scenes only if anyone is injured, the crashed vehicles are blocking the traffic, one or more drivers are intoxicated, or a fight has broken out.
What is in a police accident report?
When a police officer responds to an accident, he or she is required to gather the following information:
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of the drivers, passengers and witnesses
- Statements from the drivers, passengers and witnesses
- Descriptions of injuries sustained by the drivers, passengers or pedestrians
- Year, make, model, color and other details of the vehicles involved in the crash
- A detailed description and causes of the accident from the responding officer’s perspective
- A diagram of the scene of accident and the point of impact (to be drawn by the responding officer)
- Description of alleged at-fault driver’s actions that lead to the accident
- Type and extent of property damages to the vehicles and their contents
- Road and weather conditions at the time of the accident
- Other contributing factors
Additionally, the responding officer may take photographs of the accident scene, injured persons and the damages to the vehicles. If they have reasons to believe that the accident was caused due to alcohol or drugs, then they will conduct field sobriety tests. If one or both drivers are found to be intoxicated, they will make DUI arrests. They may also issue tickets to one or both drivers.
The report may also contain additional information, such as whether the vehicles involved in the crash needed to be towed or not, hospital visits to follow up anyone was severely injured and hospitalized.
The responding offer will issue an accident report number (also called service number) to both drivers involved in the accident. You should keep this number since you will need it when downloading or requesting (vial mail) a copy of the police accident report.
How does the report affect your insurance claim?
Once you have filed a claim, the insurance company of the at-fault driver assigns a claims adjuster who obtains a copy of the police accident report along with other information. Since police officers are only humans and they can make mistakes, the claims adjuster conducts his or her investigation. A thorough investigation may uncover details that the responding police offer has failed to notice. However, the police accident report is the deciding factor in determining fault in most cases.
Claims adjusters usually do not disagree with the police accident report. In case they disagrees, and the case ends up in a lawsuit, the jury usually relies on the police officer’s opinion, because they know it was the police officer who was at the scene of accident and not the claims adjuster.
If the police officer has failed to assign fault, as it sometimes happens, such as “The cause of the accident was inclement weather condition”, then you will have to produce evidences to persuade the insurance adjuster that the insured (the driver you have alleged to have caused the accident) was indeed at fault. Since legal procedures can be complicated, do not talk to claims adjusters or anyone else before talking to Santa Rosa car accident lawyers.