Police Accident Reports: Essential Cop Duty
Police accident reports can help to determine the exact cause of the accident and who was at fault.
While they don’t substitute for the reports that states require drivers to file when involved in an accident, the reports of sworn officers are important because they are:
Fair and impartial. Police generally have the public trust and respect, and will assess the situation without regard to the status of the parties involved.
Written up by someone who has been trained to assess what happened in the accident. Police coursework addresses how to analyze traffic accidents. A uniformed officer will interview all the parties involved along with witnesses. They will take pictures and draw sketches of the accident scene. In addition, they will measure skid marks and other evidence that will assess the speed and direction that the participants were traveling.
Complete and accurate. Again, report writing is one of the police officer’s major responsibilities. They are trained to complete these reports accurately, completely and to file them in a timely fashion. In addition, a sworn officer on the scene can help to stave off violence that may erupt from participants in an accident. Police are used to defusing stressful situations that can occur at an accident site.
Police accident reports are generally available to participants, their insurance agents and attorneys. Since some states don’t keep accident reports, it makes it very important for people who have been involved in an accident to keep copies of those reports.
There are other places outside the police department where these reports may be available. Some states maintain a central state repository, and several online search services will pull up reports for a fee. These records are not recognized as public information in some states. As a result, one must have a connection to the case in order to access the accident report in many instances. It’s best to make a personal copy for your records after completing the form.
In situations where an accident report is searchable online, it is important to know the location of the accident, the date, and the name of the complainant, in order to access information about the incident.
Based on the police report and the reports of each party in the accident, insurance agents will assess who is responsible for paying for the accident (except in no fault insurance states). Participants will need to file a formal accident report with the DMV so that the accident claim can be paid on repairs and medical expenses incurred during the accident. In case there are injuries, or there is a dispute over what actually happened, the police accident reports may be used as evidence in court, where a judge or jury can determine the damages.