Car Accident Obtaining and Understanding Car Accident Police Reports

  1. On most occasions when motorists are involved in an automobile accident and the police or highway patrol is summoned to the scene, a “police report” also known as an “incident report”, will be written. If you were in the accident, you or your lawyer will have the right by law to receive a copy of the police report. It is important for you to have it in order to prosecute or defend your case.

    How to obtain a police report?

    Depending on what the law enforcement agency policy is, there may be a fee to obtain the police report. The report may either be mailed to you if you do not have a lawyer, mailed to your lawyer, or you can go to the police precinct in person where the police report is filed to get it. When a criminal citation has been given to the other driver, the report may not be available to you until you file a law suit. This may happen if there are confidential or sensitive reasons that are in the police report. During the discovery process, your attorney can make a motion to obtain the police report. The police report can give information your attorney can use to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or attorney for the defendant.

    What is in the police report?

    The police report will have certain facts recorded such as:
    • date and time of day of the accident
    • location of accident and road conditions
    • details and diagram of the accident location
    • names of all parties involved
    • names and addresses of witnesses
    • driver’s license numbers
    • description of drivers, age, and personal characteristics
    • general weather conditions in the area
    • description of the vehicles
    • property damages
    • speeds of vehicles involved
    If you have an attorney, your attorney will go over the report with you and make note of any errors, such as, wrong speeds, blame given to the wrong person, wrong point of impact, etc. You or your attorney may need to present the errors in the report in court.

    The police report will also have information that identifies the defendant and the identity of all parties involved. Some reports will also have eye witness reports recorded. At the very least, there will be names, addresses and telephone numbers of the witnesses. Your attorney will then be able to contact the witnesses to find out what they saw happen.

    How important is the information in a police report?

    Police reports are useful and needful to have and use when suing for compensation for an automobile accident injury. However, they are not always the “best evidence” of the case. Sometimes the officer may make a mistake in judgment or be in a hurry and record the facts erroneously. For example, the police officer may make an incorrect measurement or accidentally confuse the facts.

    The officer should also have listed complaints of injury in his or her report. If you did not tell the officer you were injured or needed to seek medical care, your complaints of injury would not be noted in the report. Auto insurance companies can use this lack of information or omission against you. This is why it is best to go over the report with an experienced attorney who can best represent you in settlement negotiations with an insurance company and another party.
    Accident & Injury Law:
    Car Accident

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    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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