Car accidents are a common occurrence in the United States. In 2021, the State of Kansas, the Department of Transportation, reported 57,598 auto accidents (KDOT, N.D.). With the vast number of car accidents occurring, police accident reports are crucial to ensure that proper liability is determined. Police reports provide essential information that is needed to process a car accident situation. They contain valuable information such as witness statements, vehicle damage descriptions, and traffic citation details. This blog post will discuss the purpose of police accident reports and explain the terms used in them. If you’ve been in an auto accident and need to discuss your case with an expert, call Patton and Patton at 785-273-4330 for a free case evaluation.
The Purpose of Police Accident Reports
Police accident reports are documents used by police officers to record information about accidents they have investigated. These documents are most often used by insurance companies as evidence when processing claims resulting from a car accident. They usually include information such as time, date, location, vehicles involved, drivers’ personal details, witnesses’ contact information, diagrams of the scene, and vehicle damage descriptions. It’s a good idea to get a copy of the police accident report regardless of the severity of the accident (Forbes, 2022).
Terms Used in Police Accident Reports
There are various terms used when a police accident report is recorded. Some important terms to be familiar with are witness statements, vehicle damage descriptions, and traffic citation details. Each of these terms is described in further detail later in this blog post.
Understanding police accident reports is essential for successfully processing a car accident situation since they provide crucial evidence for use in liability cases between individuals and insurance companies.
Understanding the Process for Gathering Information from Police Accident Reports
Gathering information from police accident reports can be a difficult task. This section will discuss the process for obtaining and locating a police report, as well as explain the information needed to access it.
Steps for Obtaining a Copy of an Accident Report
Depending on where you live, there are typically multiple steps involved in getting a copy of a report. Generally, these include some combination of the following:
- Submitting a request online or over the phone
- Many police departments use an online search portal such as CrashDocs or BuyCrash LexisNexis to publish their accident reports. The report can be purchased through these portals.
- Paying a nominal fee via cash or check
- Submitting written consent forms if you are not the primary driver listed on the report
- This is often necessary if you are trying to retrieve the report for insurance purposes instead of personal records.
It’s important to note that different countries, states, and cities may have different regulations surrounding how people gain access to accident reports. It’s best to check with your local law enforcement agency or DMV before starting this process.
The Information Needed to Locate an Accident Report
In order to locate an accident report, you must have certain pieces of information related to both the driver and vehicle involved in the incident. Generally, this includes:
- The date and time of the incident
- The location where it occurred
- The model and make of each vehicle involved in the crash
- Police Case Number
- At the time of the accident, a police officer will typically give a handout containing this police case number to all involved parties so they can reference the report later.
- Which police agencies responded to the accident
- There are typically multiple agencies that could theoretically respond to an accident which include the sheriff’s department, the highway patrol, and the police department.
- If multiple agencies responded, there might be supplemental reports available from the agencies that provided support to the main investigators.
If you’re retrieving an accident report for someone else (like another driver or insurance company), then additional information, such as their full name or policy number, may also be required.
Analyzing Police Accident Reports
Police accident reports provide essential evidence for understanding what happened in the case of a car accident. This section will discuss the analysis of police reports and explain the relevant sections on them, including witness statements, vehicle damage descriptions, and traffic citation details.
Witness statements contain verbal accounts of what happened during an accident. They help investigators piece together events leading up to the crash, as well as identify any other factors that could have contributed to the incident. These statements can be invaluable when sorting out liability issues between parties involved in a crash.
Other Information Available
Sometimes, the responding police department will take photographic evidence of the scene of the accident. These photos are often available to the public through a request to the records department of that police agency or through an open records request to a local governmental agency that oversees that police department. There is often dash cam and body cam footage available as well, which can be requested.
Vehicle Damage Descriptions
Vehicle damage descriptions are used to record all visible damage observed on each vehicle involved in an accident. This includes both interior and exterior damages that may impact how a vehicle operates or its safety features. Having accurate records of these damages is important for assessing any potential insurance claims resulting from an incident.
Traffic Citation Details
When someone is found guilty of a traffic violation related to an accident, they will typically receive citations that must be included in the police report. These can include things like speeding or reckless driving charges, which can then affect claims settlements depending on where liability lies between parties involved in an incident.
Analyzing police accident reports is essential for understanding what happened during an incident and properly processing any insurance claims following it. Understanding the different sections included in a police report—such as witness statements, vehicle damage descriptions, and traffic citation details—is key to obtaining sufficient evidence and ensuring claims are settled fairly among all affected parties.
Car accidents are stressful and unpredictable events that can cause confusion and uncertainty in the aftermath. If you’ve been involved in such an incident, understanding the process for gathering information from accident reports can be incredibly helpful for navigating the situation.
Benefits of Examining an Accident Report
Accident reports provide a wealth of information about what happened during a crash, including detailed descriptions of any damages sustained by each vehicle involved, as well as witness statements and traffic citations (if applicable). Looking into these elements can help drivers determine who is at fault and what kind of financial obligations may arise as a result of the incident.
Obtaining Access to an Accident Report
As stated previously, obtaining access to a police accident report may vary depending on where you live. A good rule of thumb is to gather the information that a police records department may ask of you when helping you locate the report. You will want to know which police department responded to the accident and wrote the official report. You will also want to know various details such as the time of day, date of accident, intersection or location of the accident, etc. Most police accident reports have identifying report numbers attached to them as well.
In summary, examining a police accident report is beneficial for sorting out any potential insurance claims following a car accident. Knowing what information is included in these documents—such as witness statements and damage descriptions—can also help drivers make sense of any legal issues that might arise from the ordeal. If you still need help understanding your police accident report, reach out to Patton and Patton for a free case evaluation.
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Simon, S. (2022, October 3). Car accident police report: When & how to get a report. Forbes.
2021 Kansas traffic crash facts. (N.D.). Kansas department of transportation. Retrieved January 31, 2023