The next priority is to get the police to come to the accident scene. The report which the police prepare after visiting the accident scene serves many important functions, including helping you get a better settlement of your case with the other driver’s insurer.
(1) The report is loaded with information that often won’t appear anywhere else, and is invaluable in assisting your lawyer, the insurance companies and, sometimes, the judge or jury, should your case get that far. Information such as:
- The accident location
- Date and time of the accident
- People involved, both drivers and passengers, if any
- Injuries to people
- Damage to vehicles
- Detailed information about the vehicles involved (vehicle owner, year, make, model, PIN, license plate #, etc)
- Identification and contact information of eyewitnesses, and what they saw
- Insurance information
- How the accident occurred
- Who is at fault (sometimes), including which driver was ticketed, and for what violation(s)
(2) The report is fresh, and credible. If the report is prepared that day, based on a police officer’s visit to the scene that day, it is usually deemed to contain the most reliable evidence and information that exists anywhere about your accident. Also, because it is prepared by the police-who are trained in accident investigation and are unbiased-it is usually regarded as highly credible.
Police reports are where lawyers on both sides of the case often gain the most important information in representing their clients, for example, the names of independent witnesses to the accident, and their stories about what they saw. Insurance companies also use police reports to conduct their own investigations into what happened, and rely on them extensively to reach their decisions about who they believe is at fault, and therefore which driver’s insurance company should pay for injury and damage.
Be sure to get the name and badge # of the police officer who comes to your accident scene. That will help you more quickly get a copy of the officer’s report, once it has been finalized. Note that police reports can take anywhere between a few minutes and many weeks to be finalized, depending on how busy the officer is, and how complicated the accident is for the officer to investigate. The officer’s investigation of an accident with serious injuries, or a fatality, will take longer.
The bottom line is that a police report can provide you and your lawyer with tremendous leverage in settling your car accident claim for a fair amount. So, if you’ve been in an accident, be sure to call the police to the scene, and be as cooperative as possible in helping the officer to get the information he/she needs to prepare the report.