In the aftermath of a car accident, you may wonder if you have to call the police to file a report. Certain situations may require a police report, while others may not. Regardless of the incident, having proper documentation is key to speeding up the process and supporting your claim. Below, we’ll discuss the importance of a police report, the scenarios that do and don’t require one, and what you should do following an accident.
The Importance of a Police Report
A police report serves as an official record, providing an unbiased account of the incident from a law enforcement perspective. A typical police report includes essential information, such as:
- Location of the accident
- The parties involved
- Description of the event
- Any injuries or damages
- Potential violations of law
What happens after a police report is filed? The police will review it and potentially conduct an investigation. This will often entail interviewing victims and witnesses, and reviewing any available video footage or photographs from the scene. The police will use the report to determine who was at fault in the accident.
In the insurance claim process, a police report helps facilitate a smoother resolution for all parties. Insurers rely on the accurate, detailed information within the report to assess liability and determine the extent of coverage.
When Are You Required to File an Accident Report?
The requirement to file an accident depends on the jurisdiction and the accident’s severity. Generally, though, you should report an accident if any of the following occurs:
- Injuries or fatalities: If the accident involves any injuries or fatalities, law enforcement and relevant authorities must thoroughly investigate and document the incident.
- Significant property damage: It may be necessary to file a report when the accident causes significant damage to property, such as vehicles or structures.
- Hit and run: Not sure what to do in a hit and run? Calling the police is the first step, as they may be able to track down the vehicle that hit your car.
- Involvement of public property: A report may be required if the accident occurs on public property or involves public infrastructure, such as traffic signs or signals.
You might wonder: How long do you have to file a police report? Again, the time frame varies depending on the jurisdiction, but to ensure that the incident gets resolved swiftly, you should report the accident to the police as soon as possible.
After reporting the incident, you might also ask yourself: How long does a police report take after an accident? The time it takes can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the complexity of the accident, and local law enforcement procedures. Generally, you can obtain your police report within a few days or weeks.
Scenarios Where a Police Report May Not Be Needed
Most states don’t require a police report for minor accidents, meaning police presence may not be necessary if there were no injuries or major damages and all parties involved have a valid license and auto insurance. Additionally, in many jurisdictions, police won’t issue an accident report for an incident that occurs on private property — e.g., you run into your own garage door. Also, some locations, like a mall or grocery store parking lot, are considered private property, so police may not report to the scene if the accident is minor.
Immediate Steps After an Accident Without a Police Report
After an accident that doesn’t require a police presence, it’s crucial to take these steps to ensure you get the information you need for filing a claim:
- Exchange information: Exchange information with the other party involved. This includes getting the contact and insurance details of the other driver and providing your own information in return.
- Gather witness information: Gathering witness information is equally important in the absence of a police report. Identifying and collecting contact details from any witnesses can be invaluable, as witness statements help to establish the sequence of events.
- Take photos: Taking photos helps document the accident scene, vehicle damage, and relevant road signs. They serve as key evidence in a claim, offering a clear and objective representation of the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Reporting the Accident to Your Insurance Company
After the accident, report it to your insurance company as soon as possible to initiate the claims process. Provide a detailed account of the accident, including the description of the event, as well as the date, time, and location that it took place. This information assists your insurance company in assessing liability and processing your claim accurately. Additionally, submitting any collected information, witness statements, and photographs can further support your claim, offering tangible evidence to strengthen your case.
How long does an insurance claim take? The time frame can vary based on the complexity of the claim. A simple claim usually takes a few weeks for an insurer to complete. However, a complex claim with multiple parties, disputes, or extensive damages can take several months to complete.
Working With the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
If you’re involved in a car accident and the other driver is at fault, you may want to go through their insurance company so you don’t have to file a claim with your own insurer. First, contact the insurer as soon as possible and provide them with all the information they may need — e.g., date, time, the incident’s location, relevant witness statements, photos, etc. Be transparent and accurate in this process, as any discrepancies can lead to complications in the claims process.
Challenges and Considerations
In the aftermath of an accident, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind, especially without a police report. Establishing fault is a common challenge because it can be difficult to prove who was responsible without proper documentation. This can lead to disputes and conflicting accounts between you and the other parties involved. To navigate this situation, ensure you have sufficient evidence to support your claim — e.g., photos, witness statements, etc.
You may need legal advice in complex cases where you can’t easily resolve disputes. Legal professionals can guide you in navigating these challenges, ensuring that your rights are protected and you have the best chance of a successful claim.
While minor accidents usually don’t require a police report, you may want to call the police anyway to see if they’re available to investigate the scene. If not, gather as much information as possible to help initiate a smoother claims process. When you’re ready to file a claim, contact your local Mercury agent. They will guide you through the entire process from start to finish.