A crash report is a legal document that must be filled out after a car accident has occurred. The document is a summary of information about the collision and is filled out by law enforcement officers, often the investigating officer who responds to the 911 call to report traffic crashes to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Florida.
Vehicle accidents can completely change the lives of those involved. The laws and regulations in place that you must follow afterward can make this time even more trying. This is why you should contact a personal injury lawyer today at The Law Place, with offices all over Florida.
Call us on (941)444-4444 for a free consultation to ensure that you are guided and advised by an experienced attorney who prioritizes you.
What is an Accident Report?
An accident report, often interchangeably referred to as a crash report, is an official document prepared after a vehicular accident. This report is typically generated by a responding law enforcement officer and provides a comprehensive account of the circumstances surrounding the accident.
The contents of an accident report include a variety of critical details such as the date, time, and location of the crash, the identities and statements of the parties involved, and any witnesses’ accounts. It also covers the conditions at the time of the accident, such as weather, road conditions, and lighting. The report will detail the officer’s observations at the scene, including any apparent damages to the vehicles and property, injuries sustained by drivers or passengers, and potential violations of traffic laws.
Accident reports play a vital role in several aspects post-accident. They are crucial for insurance claims as insurers rely on these reports to determine fault and liability. They also serve as key evidence in legal proceedings if the accident leads to a lawsuit. Additionally, these reports help traffic safety experts to analyze accident trends and develop measures to improve road safety.
In most jurisdictions, involved parties can obtain a copy of the accident report from the local law enforcement agency or through online portals, which can then be used for insurance claims or personal records.
Incident Report VS Police Report
While the terms “incident report” and “police report” are often used interchangeably, they can refer to different types of documents, each with its specific purpose and context.
An incident report is a general term used for a document that records the details of any unusual event, not limited to vehicular accidents. These reports can be prepared in various settings, such as workplaces, schools, or public spaces, and are not exclusive to law enforcement use. Incident reports document events like injuries, thefts, altercations, or any other incidents that require official documentation. They are used to record the facts of an event for future reference, to initiate an investigation, or to take corrective actions.
A police report, on the other hand, is specifically prepared by law enforcement officers and relates to incidents that potentially involve criminal activity or public safety concerns, including traffic accidents. Police reports provide an authoritative account of an event from the law enforcement perspective and are used as official records in criminal investigations, legal proceedings, and insurance claims. In the context of vehicular accidents, a police report provides a detailed account of the crash, including the officer’s findings and conclusions about the incident.
Understanding the difference between an incident report and a police report is crucial, especially when dealing with legal or insurance matters following an event. While both serve as formal records of an event, their scope, authorship, and usage can differ significantly based on the context of the incident.
What Is Included in a Crash Report?
Every accident report includes specific and important information about the crash. This information in the report can then be used at a later date, particularly if legal action is taken. The type of information often included in one of these reports is as follows:
- The place, date, and time of the accident.
- The name, address, phone number, date of birth, and more personal details of all drivers or pedestrians who were involved in the accident, as well as their statements.
- The contact information of any witnesses and their statements.
- The driver’s license information, as well as the plate number (State of the license, license number), the insurance company of all the drivers involved.
- An accident diagram form of the accident, including selecting vehicle movement, pedestrian action, vehicle defects, and other factors.
- Location, the weather, road, and lighting at the scene, and description of any damage sustained to the vehicles involved in the accident.
- Citations or violations of any laws.
- The police officer’s own opinions as to cause of the collision and who is at fault.
Reporting a Crash
If you have been involved in a car accident, whether it was your fault or not, Florida Statute 316.066 states that you must stay at the accident scene and call 911 to immediately report it if:
- Death or injury followed as a result.
- The accident was a hit and run.
- The accident was caused by a driver who was under the influence.
- The property damage caused by the accident costs over $500.
- The crash involved a commercial motor vehicle.
- A wrecker is required to come and remove a vehicle.
You must also file a car crash report in Florida with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of the accident.
If the crash you were involved in was a minor one, then you can report it yourself online or by mail instead.
Once the claim has been reported after a car accident, then each insurance company of the drivers involved will conduct their own investigation. The insurance company will first ask for the police report, as they all contain a large and important range of information that is crucial to their investigations. When aiming to claim damages after being in an auto accident that wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company may try to block the attempt. Contacting a law firm will be able to help you with this endeavor and give you the best chance of receiving the justice that you deserve.
Is a Crash Report the Same as a Police Report?
Crash reports and police reports are similar but not the same. A police report is required if a crime has been committed, and so, for example, would be used if the crash involved a death, a driver who was driving under the influence, etc.
Police reports, and other types of accident reports, are very important in a car accident. They give a legal, reliable, and trustworthy account of the auto accident that is often used and believed in a court if either party involved decided to take legal action. A police report may also be great to use by personal injury lawyers in settlement negotiations. They can also sometimes be used as evidence to show that the other person was at fault, although this isn’t always clear-cut.
How Do You Write an Accident Report?
As mentioned above, if you were involved in a minor car crash that did not require a law enforcement report, then you can report the accident yourself, instead of an officer.
You can do this:
- Online – You can use the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) website to fill out the accident report online. Once you have completed all applicable fields in the form, including the signature and date, then it can be emailed to the email address found on the website.
- By mail – If you are filling out an accident report, you can use the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website to download the driver report of a traffic crash. Once you’ve filled this out, you should mail the copy to the address also found on the website. It is a good idea to keep a copy of the submitted report for your records and insurance purposes.
Are Car Accident Reports Public Record?
Car accident and police reports can be accessed by the public, although one way will cost money. However, police reports are not a part of the public record until 60 days after the crash. If you do need a copy of the report within the 60 days, then you will need to complete an official affidavit, which will specify that you were in the crash. This affidavit is usually available at any police department, sheriff’s office, or other similar location where you need to pick up your report. You also have the option to complete the form online from the Florida Highway Patrol website.
In order to obtain a paid copy of the desired police report, you will first need to know which agency responded to your accident of which department you called to file the report as you need to request a copy from the law enforcement office, which wrote the report. Before leaving the accident scene, the police officer investigating will likely hand you a receipt with the identification number of the police report. If you have this identification number, then you’ll be able to call the traffic division of the local law enforcement agency, pay the administrative fee (often around $15), and obtain a copy. Even if you don’t have the identification number for the report, then you should be able to still obtain it if you can provide the agency with some of the following:
- The date and time of the accident.
- The location of the accident.
- Your name and/or the name of one or more of the drivers involved.
Having this information will speed up the process of locating and accessing a copy of the report. You might still need to share this information with the agency even if you do have the case number, as the process to get a police report may differ for each agency. Some offer instant online downloads, whereas others may require you to appear in person or send a request by mail.
However, you could obtain a copy of the police report for free by asking the claims representative of your insurance company to see if they requested the report. If they did, you can ask the representative for a copy. The insurance company may not have the police report, but it is a good idea to check as it could save you some money.
If the attorneys at The Law Place handle your claim for you, then we will be able to advise and assist you in acquiring the relevant car accident report.
What is a Crash Report? FAQ
What is the role of a law enforcement officer in creating a crash report?
A law enforcement officer’s role in creating a crash report is to document the details of a car accident accurately. The responding officer arrives at the scene, assesses the situation, collects information from the parties involved, and prepares the official police report based on their findings and observations.
How important is a car accident police report in handling a settlement?
A car accident police report is crucial in a car accident settlement as it provides an unbiased account of how the accident occurred. Insurance adjusters and legal representatives often rely on this report to determine liability and assess claims.
Can I obtain a crash report from my local law enforcement office?
Yes, you can obtain a crash report from your local law enforcement office. Typically, parties involved in the accident or their legal representatives are entitled to request and receive a copy of the report for their records and proceedings.
How do insurance adjusters use crash reports?
Insurance adjusters use crash reports to verify the details of the accident, assess liability, and evaluate the extent of damages and injuries. The information in these reports is critical in determining how much compensation should be offered in an insurance claim.
What should I do if the other driver’s insurance company contacts me after an accident?
If the other driver’s insurance company contacts you after an accident, it’s advisable to consult with a legal representative before providing any statements or accepting any settlements. Your attorney can guide you on how to communicate with the insurance company to protect your interests.
How do police officers determine who is at fault in a crash report?
Police officers determine who is at fault in a crash report based on evidence from the accident scene, including physical evidence, statements from the parties involved, witness testimonies, and their professional assessment of the situation. Their determination is then documented in the crash report.
Contact The The Law Place For a Free Consultation
If you have been involved in a car crash that wasn’t your fault, then you may deserve compensation. Here at The Law Place, our lawyers have over 75 years of combined experience with Florida law and so working with us will give you the best possible chance at receiving the justice that you deserve.
Don’t suffer in silence; call us today at (941)444-4444 to schedule a free consultation.