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Is filing a police report necessary after a car accident? Mesriani Law Group explains the hows and whys of filing a police report in California.

Do You Need a Police Report for a Car Accident?

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Getting into a car accident can feel scary and confusing especially if it’s the first time it’s happened to you. It’s natural to feel shaken when you’re trying to process all the difficult emotions. But the first step to recovering from the incident is overcoming these heightened emotions and completing all the necessary steps involved in the claims process.

The first thing to do is to determine the extent of the damage and your injuries. After checking if anyone needs urgent medical care, one of the first things you should do is record as much of the incident as possible. After that, you can contact local law enforcement and file a police report.

What is a Police Report?

A police report is a physical record of an illegal or otherwise potentially illegal incident. They are also called an “incident report.”

Police reports serve as the starting point of a legal investigation and provides accident victims with a document to use as evidence during a court hearing or when they file for an insurance claim. These reports usually include details that can aid in reconstructing the accident and in identifying the people involved, such as the driver and witnesses. Overall, police reports are valuable documents that can provide a detailed account of the aftermath of any crash.

Maximize Your Time While Waiting for the Police to Arrive

There will be instances when the police will be unable to respond to your calls right away. And even though this is more of an exception to the rule, it happens sometimes. But regardless of the cause of delays, maximize your time by gathering evidence to support your case.

  • Talk to witnesses. Getting the account of a person who witnessed the accident is one of the most helpful factors in determining who is at fault. Most of the time, they can provide an unbiased perspective that can support your case.
  • Take pictures. Another form of evidence that can be presented at court includes photos. While witnesses are a great help, their input is subjective and can be prone to human error. Photos, on the other hand, provide objective evidence.
  • Survey the area for surveillance cameras. Photos are great pieces of evidence to have in the courtroom, but videos provide a more detailed account of what happened. After taking photos, scout for surveillance cameras that may have captured the accident.

How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident

You must contact the police right away when you get involved in a car accident. Some states even require you to contact the police immediately after you get into a crash. In case your state follows a different procedure when it comes to filing a police report, check your local police department websites for confirmation.

Most of the time, you will have to follow these steps:

  • Call the police immediately after the incident. Resist the impulse to go after the perpetrator and stay at the scene instead. You are going to want the scene of the accident/collision to be as untampered as possible to ensure all the right details are recorded.
  • Once the police arrive, discuss the details of the accident with the officer. He or she will ask a series of questions to the drivers and witnesses at the scene. Try to answer these questions as clearly as possible because they’ll serve as a valuable tool in proving your case and getting the recovery you deserve.
  • Police reports will usually be ready with 3-5 days after the accident. If you don’t know how to obtain a police report you may obtain in two ways. Get a paid copy of your police report by requesting it from the local law enforcement office that drafted the report. You also have the choice to get it for free by asking the claims representative of your insurance company to give you a copy.

Why Filing a Police Report Right Away is a Must

There are many reasons why you need to file an incident report right away. One reason is that certain injuries (and some types of vehicular damage) may not be apparent immediately after the accident. Some effects of the accident take days or weeks to manifest. And filing your police report ensures that you get properly compensated for your car damage and injuries.

Another reason to get a police report immediately after an accident is that our experiences are subject to the vagaries of human memory. Emotions run high after a car accident, and you may not be able to think clearly. Sometimes, drivers form a different account of what had happened after some time has passed than when the accident is still fresh.

How Long After an Accident Should You File a Report?

The number of days you have to report a car accident varies depending on the state you’re in. The laws in some states, for instance, require you to report accidents that lead to injury or result in more than $2,000 of property damage.

In California, car accident victims need to report the incident to three different entities: the local police department, the DMV, and their insurance company.

  • Police department – The California Vehicle Code gives you 24 hours to report the accident to the California Highway Patrol, provided that the incident happened within their jurisdiction.
  • DMV – If another person was killed or injured or if the property damage exceeded $1,000 because of the crash, you’ll need to file a report within 10 days of the incident.
  • Insurance company – Your auto insurance policy may encourage you to file your insurance claim at the time of the incident or within 24 hours, but this is not a requirement. Just make sure that the claim you file falls within California’s statute of limitations.

Seek Legal Advice from a Car Accident Attorney

Filing a police report can be stressful because it requires you to recount what happened during the accident. But successfully filing your police report is crucial because it serves as the starting point for the investigation. With a car accident attorney, you can obtain legal advice and forward your claims. To get the best in legal support after your car accident accidents, hire our car accident lawyers. Mesriani Law Group will champion your case on a “No Fee, No Win” basis.

About the Author
Picture of Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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