Filing a Police Report After a Car Accident

Two damaged cars after accident
••• Eric Van Den Brulle/ Stone/ Getty Images

Filing a police report after a car accident is an important step in making sure all the details of the car accident are documented and all parties involved are protected.

When You Need to File a Police Report After an Accident

You should contact the police anytime you have a car accident. Contacting the police is a requirement in some states, and even in the states where it is not, you are better off to contact them and let them decide if they will come to the scene. Then you have done your part in following the law which will work to your benefit if there is a lawsuit filed following an accident.​

File a Police Report Regardless of How Small the Car Accident Seems

Even if there is only minor damage it is important to still make sure an accident report is filed. Sometimes there is more physical and medical damage later that is not always apparent at the time of the car accident.

Filing a Police Report and Making a Claim 

Just because you file a police report does not mean you automatically are making a claim. The police report serves as a record of the incident. Sometimes after a car accident, people would rather handle the financial issues themselves than contact their insurance companies. You still need to file a crash report with the police, it may even be a legal requirement in your state. You don't know what the other person in the car accident will decide to do or say after you have left the scene. The police can help make sure the details are accurate.

Police Reports and Personal Injuries

No one is at their best after a car accident. You will likely be shaken up and not in a position to judge how you are doing. Police have experience in spotting potential issues and can be of help. They will also deal with the third party for you, this will relieve a lot of stress. Then they will fill in the report. Sometimes you can have personal injuries that only show up a day or two after the accident, if you didn't file a police report and there is no record of the incident, it may make things harder for you in the long run.

Why You Should File Your Accident With the Police

Filing the accident report will not only provide your insurance company with a basis on how to properly handle your claim but it will also give them an accurate crash report. An accurate accident report will ensure protection for you if there are any legal problems that occur from the car accident. The police can file a car accident report and may help submit it to the DMV for you if required. Do not leave the scene until the police file a full report.

If the Police Do Not Come to the Accident

There may be a situation in which a police officer is not available because of your location or other reasons. Here are some reasons the police may not come to the scene of the accident:

  • In some states, the police are not required to go to the scene of an accident if the property damage value is too low. If you are concerned about injuries or other issues you should make the police aware when you call it in so they can make a decision if they will come anyway based on your description of what is happening.
  • The police may make the decision not to come if there are no injuries
  • If there is a public emergency or disaster underway, they may not be able to make it to the scene of the accident. 

    You should always make the call to the police on the scene and let them decide. If you are in a situation where the police do not come to the scene of the accident, then make sure you document the accident and damages thoroughly. 

    What Information Should You Get at the Accident Scene

    If the police tell you they can not make it to the accident, then ask them what you should do, and make sure you take all the information necessary using a car accident form or information checklist. Also take the name of the person you spoke to when reporting the accident, in case you need it later in court or for a settlement.

    • Find witnesses if possible
    • Write down, take pictures or audio or video record (with your phone) the damages, location and the third party or witness versions of what happened at the scene if possible.
    • File your police report as soon as you can and give the police officer the information you collected.

    You will need the information to file your own report and insurance claim if the police are not there to help. Information collected from the car accident can be one of the most important tools in determining fault and who is financially responsible for the car accident. Filing a detailed and accurate police report keeps the claims process smooth and quick. Always be honest and detailed with the police officer, it will help you in the long run

    What the Police Will Do on the Scene of a Car Accident

    • Take the basic information
    • Make sure the area is secure and safe for traffic and all people involved
    • Call any emergency services that may also need to get involved (like ambulances and fire trucks) to help 
    • Give tickets if this is required due to violations or negligence
    • Speak to witnesses or any third parties (other people) involved
    • Evaluate the situation which can avoid scams or other questionable circumstances
    • Prepare a report you can later use to file your insurance claim, or use in court if needed
    • The police are there to help

    Know How to Get in Contact With the Police Officer Who Filed Your Accident Report

    After the accident report is filed make sure you get a card and/or direct contact information from the police officer who filed the accident report.

    Often after an accident, you may only remember additional details later and these details can be very important, especially if the car accident claim snowballs into a lawsuit.

    If you find you have remembered some key details after the accident report is filed, contact the police officer and see if you can add these details to the accident report.