If you get into an auto accident and file a claim with your insurance company, one of the first things they will likely ask you is whether you made a police accident report. If you can get one, you are probably better off.
If the police do not come to the accident scene, you should be able to visit your local police station or DMV and fill one out. The key is to make sure that the information on the report is accurate before an inaccuracy becomes a problem and potentially costs you money.
So, what information is on a police auto accident report?
- Police auto accident reports record essential information from an accident. Insurance companies typically want a copy of the report if it's available.
- If the police don't come to the scene, you can fill out a report at the local police station or department of motor vehicles.
- Police reports typically include the date and location, the drivers and vehicles involved, information on passengers and witnesses, and witness statements.
- The police may not respond to an accident on private property, like a parking lot fender bender. You'll need to record the relevant information yourself.
The Standard Information
The basic information is pretty obvious and should always be part of any report. Be sure the following info is included and complete.
The Date and Location of the Crash
Details are important. The date should include the day, month, and year, of course, but also the specific time. It doesn't hurt to make note of the day of the week, also.
In terms of the location, be very specific. Check to make sure everything that applies is included:
- Town or city
- Road, street, route and/or intersection
- Road marker
- Railroad crossing ID
- Any distinguishing landmarks
The report should also describe the weather conditions at the time of the accident.
Drivers and Vehicles
Be sure that your report has all of the pertinent information for each driver, including name, address, phone number, driver's license number, and date of birth. It may be easiest to take a look at the other person's driver's license.
You might want to note if another driver's license indicates a corrective eyewear requirement, especially if it appears that the other driver was not wearing glasses at the time of the accident.
It is also important that the report includes full information for each vehicle involved, such as the year, make and model, and the license plate number.
Passengers and Other Witnesses
Here is where you need to check the information in a police report written by a responding officer to make sure it is complete.
In many cases, officers will not take down basic information on passengers unless they are injured or killed. But passengers are often the best witnesses to an accident. So, if you are filling out a report at the station or the DMV, be sure to include all the information you have on passengers.
In addition, be sure the police report has taken the statements of any third-party witnesses. Third-party witnesses are often seen as particularly credible since they have no apparent connection to the parties and therefore have no bias.
Gently insist that the responding officer takes down witness information and statements. If they don't, get the information yourself—it may come in handy later on.
The vast majority of police accident reports are done on a printed form with spaces for specific information and, in many cases, check-the-box sections to cover every possible tiny detail of what happened.
It will also provide a space for the officer to write in any additional details that they deem important.
If you are the one filling out the form at the police station or DMV, be sure to describe the accident in as much detail as the form allows—and then some.
Party and Witness Statements
This is the most important section for you because this is where you get to tell your side of the story.
If the report is being taken by a responding officer, be sure to read over what they write down for you and confirm its accuracy on the spot. You may want to review what the other parties and witnesses put down in their statements if you get the opportunity.
If you review a police accident report and discover an error, let them know immediately. If the error concerns a factual mistake, such as a misspelled name or incorrect license number—something that is easily confirmable—you will likely find it simple to correct.
Don't expect to be able to change something that amounts to a conclusion reached by the report taker, though, even if you believe the conclusion is factually incorrect.
Remember, the need for a police accident report to be complete and accurate is hard to overstate. It's important not just in regard to an insurance claim, but also as evidence in a civil or criminal court action.
What About Accidents on Private Property?
The police are not able to respond to every fender bender in a parking lot or driveway.
If your vehicle is damaged in the grocery store parking lot, the police will not come out to file a police report. You will need to take down the information yourself.
The information required for filing a car insurance claim that occurred on private property is very similar to the information usually included on a police report.