After a car accident, it’s in your best interest to call 9-1-1 and ask the dispatcher to send a police officer to the scene of the crash. The officer that responds to the scene will gather information regarding the events leading up to the crash to determine exactly what happened. Then, the officer will write a police report that summarizes this information.
If you’ve been injured in a traffic collision, your Tampa car accident attorney will immediately obtain a copy of this police report. Why is this report so important? How will the report impact the outcome of your personal injury claim? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.
What Information Will the Police Report Include?
Every police report is unique. But in general, a police report will contain a wealth of information related to the accident, including:
- Date, time, and location of the crash
- Diagram of the crash that shows the positioning of the vehicles, nearby intersections, traffic lanes, and presence of debris or other physical evidence
- Contact information for all parties involved in the crash
- Contact information for all witnesses
- Whether or not each party involved in the crash needed medical attention
- Brief description of each party’s known injuries
- Description of property damage
- Road conditions
- Weather conditions
The police report may also contain the officer’s opinion regarding factors that could have contributed to the accident. For example, the officer may write that he believes one of the drivers was distracted at the time of the accident.
Some police reports may contain the officer’s opinion regarding who was at fault for the crash. For example, if an officer believes that the accident occurred as a result of one driver’s failure to stop at a red light, the report may state that this driver was at fault for the accident.
How Are Police Reports Used in Car Accident Cases?
Police reports are used as evidence in car accident cases. In fact, this report can play an important role in your car accident claim. This is because a police report contains a great deal of information about the accident and is written by a law enforcement officer, which gives the report credibility.
For example, say you are involved in an accident and the police report states that the other driver was at fault. You can use this report as evidence to prove liability to the other driver’s insurance company.
Having a police report that supports your claim will strengthen your case. But insurance companies will not automatically accept that their policyholder was liable simply because that’s what is written in the police report. Insurance companies are allowed to disagree with the police officer’s opinion, and they often do.
Likewise, if the report says you are at fault for the crash, this does not mean that you cannot recover compensation for your injuries. Your attorney can conduct their own investigation to gather evidence that disproves this finding. With a strong case, you can still prove that the other party was liable for the accident despite what the police report says.
Will the Police Report Be Used As Evidence if it Doesn’t Identify the Liable Party?
The police report can still be used as evidence even if the officer does not provide their opinion regarding who was at fault. In this case, other information in the report may be important to your claim.
For example, an accident reconstruction expert may rely on the officer’s diagram that shows the positioning of the vehicles at the time of the crash. This information may help them piece together what happened in the moments leading up to the crash, which can help you establish liability.
How Can You Obtain A Copy of the Police Report?
The officer who responds to the crash will not prepare the report at the scene, so you will need to obtain a copy of the report once it is completed.
There are several ways to obtain a copy of the police report for your accident. The easiest way is online either through the City of Tampa’s website or the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.
If more than 60 days has passed since the accident, you will simply need to fill out a request form and pay a small fee to obtain a copy of the report.
But if the accident occurred within the last 60 days, you must also submit a copy of your photo ID and a completed Sworn Statement for Traffic Crash Report Information form. This is because the state of Florida requires law enforcement agencies to keep accident reports confidential for 60 days following the crash. During this 60-day period, the only people who are allowed to obtain a copy of the report are those who were involved in the accident, their insurance companies, and their attorneys. So if you want to obtain a report for an accident that occurred in the last 60 days, you will need to prove that you were directly involved in the crash.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, your attorney can handle the process of obtaining a copy of your police report on your behalf.
Contact Our Auto Accident Attorneys As Soon As Possible
Your first priority after a car accident should be seeking medical attention. But next on your list should be seeking legal representation. The auto accident attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett have over 125 years of combined experience helping the injured fight for the compensation they deserve. We know what it takes to successfully investigate an accident, prove liability, negotiate with insurance companies, and secure the compensation you are entitled to by law.
Let us fight to recover as much compensation as possible for you after a car crash. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.