If you end up in a car accident, you’re usually required to call the police, even if the accident is relatively minor.
In some states, there are even legal requirements around notifying the police of a car accident.
When the police arrive, they’ll investigate the scene of the accident and conduct an investigation.
They’ll gather the details in a report, and this will often play a vital role in the claim process. It’s likely to contain valuable information and can be handy if you end up filing for a lawsuit.
What does a police accident report contain?
Generally, a police accident report will contain the following details:
- Description of the accident scene and the road conditions
- Names and contact information for any witnesses
- Statements taken from any witnesses
- Pictures of the victims, the cars, and the scene
- Statements made by the drivers involved
- License and insurance information for all parties involved
- Notes about any tickets or citations issues
It’s worth bearing in mind that while law enforcement officers write accident reports routinely, that doesn’t mean they’re always 100% accurate.
Cops are still making on-the-spot judgment calls and can only make decisions based on what they witness themselves, or the information they’re given from witnesses and the drivers involved.
What should I do if the police report is wrong?
If you notice any issue with the police report, for example, information relating to your personal details are wrong, or there are inaccuracies in the statement you made, you may wish to dispute the police report.
If you notice an error in the report, it’s important to raise this with the officer responsible for writing the report immediately, as this information will be used by the insurance companies who are negotiating your claim. The report may also be used as supporting evidence in the courtroom, should a lawsuit be filed.
Incorrect information in the report may include:
- Identification information and personal details
- Statements made by the drivers or witnesses
- Details of whether or not anyone was injured
- The identity of the person who called the police
- Directional information
- Conditions of the roads at the time
- Who is at-fault
What to Do If You Need to Dispute a Police Report
It’s worth bearing in mind that just because you dispute a police report, doesn’t mean the officer will change it.
After all, there is some subjectivity involved even in the roles of law enforcement officers, and they may interpret things differently to you, or may just presume you’re attempting to avoid liability.
If you need to dispute an accident report, here’s what you should do:
- First of all, it’s best to reach out to the officer responsible for the report. If it’s a minor error, they should be able to amend it. You’ll usually find the name of the officer on the report itself, along with their contact information. Like we said, if it’s a simple, informational error, the officer is likely to change it when you point this out to them.
- However, if the officer refuses to amend the report, for example, the error is not informational related and the officer disagrees with your suggested amendments, you’ll need to consider other options. One way of disputing the report is by going to the DMV and requesting a dispute form. You can also take this route if you can’t get in touch with the officer who wrote the report. This will allow you to file a formal dispute with the DMV so that there’s a documented record of your version of what happened. This will back you up if you need to query the report at a later stage in court.
- It’s also a good idea to get an attorney to assist you. The attorney can be a useful source of advice and will also act as a figure of authority when it comes to disputing the report. Your attorney can personally reach out to the officer or the DMV on your behalf, and if your case goes to court, they’ll also be able to raise the fact that you attempted to amend the report earlier on in the process.
- You should also contact the insurance company, which your attorney can also do for you. Your lawyer can raise the issue of the report with the insurance companies on both sides so that they’re aware of your dispute. This is really important as the insurance adjuster will base their decision about who is at fault on the accident report, and if inaccurate, a report may portray your actions unfavorably. It’s important to contact the insurance companies as early as possible, so you can flag up the disputed report before any decisions are made.
File Disputes and Amendments as Early as Possible
Again, let’s stress the importance of time here.
If you’re going to dispute the police accident report, do this as soon as possible after the accident, as it could cause you issues later on if there are no records of your dispute straight after the accident.
Similarly, if your report is amended, you also need to ensure the insurance companies have the amended version of the report, as this is what they use to determine fault, and this process usually takes place within days of receiving an accident claim.
The police accident report is a very important piece of information and is central to how the insurance company determines who was at fault when a car accident occurs.
However, it’s not unheard of for police reports to be wrong, and if you notice an issue with your accident report, it’s essential that you dispute the report as early on as possible.
Not only do you have a better chance of getting a report amended if you raise any concerns earlier on, but it also reflects better on you.
For example, even if the officer refuses to amend the report, if the case does go to court there’s at least documented evidence that you disputed the report, and your lawyer can argue this on your behalf.