Many people involved in accidents are reluctant to involve the police. They may be afraid of receiving tickets or citations for the accident, or even getting arrested. It is important, however, to contact the police and obtain an official police report after a serious accident in California. A police report can serve as critical evidence during your personal injury case.
When to Call the Police
Calling 911 is an option after any type of accident, but it is most common after a motor vehicle collision. California’s hit-and-run law states that it is mandatory for drivers involved in certain collisions to call the police from the scene or as soon as possible. This is a requirement if the car accident caused injuries, fatalities or at least $1,000 in property damage.
You should always contact the police after an accident involving serious injuries, a liability dispute, a broken law or an uninsured driver. You can also call the police for a more minor car accident if you wish to have an official report drawn up. Calling the police can be important for getting your side of the story on the record. It can also help you document your accident with eyewitness statements, official photographs and/or a citation against the other party.
What to Say to the Police After an Accident
If you call the police to the scene of an accident in California, be sure to give the officer a description of what you saw and experienced. If you were injured in a car crash, for example, describe what direction both vehicles were traveling, how fast they were going and what you believe caused the collision. Do not speculate about fault, however, and do not admit fault for the accident.
Admitting fault for an accident while still at the scene could automatically end the case, even before an official investigation. The insurance company may place liability with you without bothering to verify whether or not this is true. Instead of admitting fault outright, wait for an investigation to determine liability. There may be more to the accident than you initially think, such as the other party’s comparative fault.
How to Obtain a Copy of Your Police Report
The officer who responds to your call will write up and file an official report to the police department in the county where your accident took place. Many jurisdictions have a rule requiring the reporting officer to file the paperwork within at least 10 days of the accident. You should be able to call and request a copy of your report sooner than this – in just a few hours or a few days at most.
Call the presiding police department and give them your name and information so they can locate your report. If you can, get your police report number while still at the scene of your accident to make it easier to obtain a copy. Request two copies – one for yourself and one to send to the insurance company. You may have to pay a fee to make the copies.
How to Use a Police Report as Evidence
Once you have a copy of the police report, you can submit it as evidence during an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit in Orange County. The police accident report can provide important, unbiased information from the viewpoint of a police officer. The average police report contains facts such as:
- The date, time and location of the accident
- Details about the environment at the time of the accident, such as the weather
- The names of the parties involved
- A description of all injuries sustained
- A description of property damage
- Statements from people who witnessed the accident
- Official police photographs and video footage
- Any tickets or citations given to involved parties
These facts can provide substantial evidence to support your personal injury case. The information included on a police report can prove to an insurance company that its policyholder is legally to blame for your injury, for example, or demonstrate the extent of your injuries and related losses. If you have to go to trial to obtain financial compensation, a police report can be used to prove your case to a jury. To learn more about how a police report can help with your injury claim, consult with a personal injury attorney in Orange County.