How to file a police report after an accident and why it's so important

July 31, 2020

What you need to know about filing a police report after an accident and why it's so important

A police officer helping someone file a police report after an accident

If you've ever been in a car accident, you know that the aftermath can be stressful and confusing. Fortunately, police officers can help you document the events and put the pieces together. But what's the best way to go about filing a police report and when should you do it? Is it really that important? We’ll answer these questions and more as we discuss how to file a police report after an accident, so read on!

Are you required to file a police report after an auto accident or collision?

Filing a report is incredibly important for a number of reasons and in some cases, it's required by law to do so. In Texas, if an injury or death occurred as a result of an accident, or if over $1000 in property was damaged, you are required to file a police report.

Because it can be so difficult to estimate damages at the scene of an accident, and because some injuries aren't apparent until many days later, it's always a good idea to file a report just to be on the safe side. For example, while both parties may agree that damages don't exceed the dollar limit, it's possible you may discover they are far more expensive after a professional evaluation. 

Failing to file a police report when the law requires it can result in a suspended license, a hefty fine, and even jail time. While you have ten days to file a report after the accident, the best way to do so is by calling 911 immediately after the accident.

When should you file a police report?

As mentioned, the best time to file a police report is immediately after the accident.  This ensures that the responding officer is able to gather all of the relevant information.

However, first and foremost, it's important to make sure that you and any passengers in your vehicle have no obvious injuries. If your vehicle is causing a hazard or otherwise disrupting the flow of traffic in its current location, move it off the road and out of traffic if possible. If not, turn on your hazard lights and, if it is safe to do so, exit the vehicle to a safe location and wait for the officer to arrive.

Once you are sure that everyone is safe, call 911 to report the accident. When speaking to the dispatch operator, be as specific as possible when describing your location and circumstances. For example, be sure to tell them if anyone is injured, if traffic is obstructed, or if you are in immediate danger as a result of the accident.

While you wait for the officer to arrive, you can take this time to take photos, both of your car and any other parties involved if possible. Make sure to get the license plate number of any other vehicles involved, as well as their insurance information, name, and phone number

In some circumstances, the police may not be able to send an officer out to your location for one reason or another. If this is the case, or if you don't call 911 immediately, you can usually go to the nearest police station to file a report after the fact. 

What information do you need to give when filing a police report?

In the case of an auto accident, the officer will try to provide an impartial third party account of the accident. While the police officer will likely have a standard set of questions to ask all parties involved in the accident, it's important to have an idea of what sort of information you might need to provide to help them with the process. 

It's always a good idea to take photos of damage for insurance purposes, but these pictures can also help the officer understand the situation. Get photos or videos of any damage to the vehicles involved. If there are other signs or indicators of what happened, such as tire marks on the road or asphalt, document those if you can safely do so. If there are witnesses, you may also want to have their statement recorded on video if they agree to do so. 

Beyond that, officers will usually ask for standard information, such as your license plate number, your driver's license number, your name, number, and address. Finally, they'll most certainly ask for proof of insurance, so have your insurance card ready.

Why is it important to file a police report?

Whether you're in a minor fender-bender or a more serious accident, calling the police to file a report is incredibly important because they are a trusted and impartial third party account of the events. While a police report isn't necessarily required to file an insurance claim, it can help establish the at fault parties, help protect you against potential scams, and make filing an insurance claim far easier. 

But apart from the police report, having an officer on the scene can be essential for your safety and the safety of others. Auto accidents are dangerous in and of themselves, but the aftermath can create dangerous situations, too. When the officer arrives, they will make sure that all parties involved are safe and work to secure the area. They can help direct traffic and call any additional emergency services if needed, such as an ambulance or even a tow truck. 

Even if you're in a collision where no other vehicles were involved, calling the police can be helpful. For example, if you have a collision with an animal, the information can help you and your insurance company when filing a claim if you have a Comprehensive (or "Other Than Collision") policy

How do I get a copy of the police report to my insurance company?

On the scene, once the officer has finished collecting information and interviewing involved parties and witnesses, they should give you a incident number or police report number for your later use. This number allows you and your insurance company to reference the case. 

Before the officer leaves the scene, make sure to get the reference number, as well as any and all relevant information, such as the name and badge number of the officer in case you need to reach them at a later point. Not only can this be helpful for answering any potential questions you may have about the report, you may need to contact the officer if additional details come to mind after the fact.

When you file a claim with your insurance company, the claims customer service representative will ask you for a variety of details regarding the accident, as well as collect your policy information and personal details. Assuming you're filing an auto insurance claim, they will likely ask you for a police report reference number. 

After the initial call, the case will then be assigned to a claims adjuster with your insurance provider. Usually, the company has software that the adjuster uses to download or reference the police report based on the incident number you provide. In other cases, they may have to contact the station directly. Either way, reviewing the report on file is one of the primary steps for the adjuster in the claims process.

A police officer helping someone file a police report after an accident

Auto accidents can be stressful. That's why it's so important to have an insurance company with an excellent claims and customer service record. Like Germania Insurance! Request a free quote online or reach out to one of our trusted agents today!

Read more: Whether you're new to insurance, or just need a refresher, check out our blog, "25 basic insurance terms everyone should know"!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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