More than 200,000 car accidents occur each year in Florida. You probably know someone who has been in a car accident or you’ve been involved in one yourself. This type of incident is traumatic and things can get hectic immediately at the scene of the collision. Who was at fault? Who wasn’t paying attention or had moved their car into the wrong place? Things can quickly devolve into one driver’s word vs another in this tense situation. This is why a car accident police report is so important, especially if you plan on filing a personal injury claim in Florida.
In the unfortunate event that you have ever had a car accident, then you are aware of the importance of obtaining a police report. For a skilled Florida car accident lawyer, the police report will be used in strengthening your case against the insurance company.
Why a Police Report Should Be Filed ASAP After a Car Accident in Florida
You will have a stronger case if you have more evidence supporting your claim that the other driver was at fault in an auto accident lawsuit. Police reports filed by officers at the scene of the accident are critical pieces of evidence. Under Florida law, if you are the driver of a vehicle involved in an auto accident, you have certain responsibilities.
It is a driver’s responsibility to remain at the scene of the accident, provide assistance to anyone who may be injured, and exchange information with the driver of the other car. When the following situations apply, the local police or Florida Highway Patrol should be contacted as soon as possible:
- A death or injury occurs in the accident;
- The at fault party commits a hit-and-run;
- A drunk driver was involved in the accident; or
- Estimated damages from the car accident exceed $500.
How is a Police Report Filed?
You have the right to file a police report on your own if the police do not arrive at the scene. Gather all the evidence in your possession before filing a report. This might include photos, videos, and any details about the accident. Specifically, the date, time, and location of the motor vehicle accident. The more information you can gather about the other person or people involved in the accident, the better. You can file an accident report at the nearest police station.
Note for readers: The police report is really important, but how about the ticket that was issued at the scene of the accident? If you have a moment, you should learn more about how police ticket(s) can impact injury claims after a car accident in Florida.
Important Information Included in a Police Report
An investigation report will be filed by the investigating officer providing details of the accident. A report is usually filed within a few hours following the accident. A police officer will file and complete the police report, so you will not need to file your own. If law enforcement does not file a report of the accident, you are required to submit one no later than ten days after the accident occurred. Police stations and online reporting services are both options. A police report may contain information such as:
- The names of the drivers, their driver’s license numbers, and their insurance information.
- The exact location of the accident.
- The time and date of the accident.
- The damage done to vehicles and other property.
- The injuries suffered by drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
- Statements from the drivers involved.
- Statements from witnesses.
- Other information about the crash location and the road conditions.
When the report is filed, you can request a copy. Send one to your insurer, one to your car accident lawyer, and keep one for yourself.
Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You Obtain a Police Report in Florida?
A copy of the police report can be obtained from the local precinct if the police responded to your accident but you have not yet received it. Similarly, if you lost your police report, you can get a new copy. A lawyer can assist you with obtaining a copy of the police report if you don’t know whether one exists (for example, if you were transported from the scene with serious or life-threatening injuries). Considering the first responders were present at the scene, you should have access to a police report.
How Police Reports Affect Personal Injury Claims in Florida
Police reports hold merit. In addition to adding credibility to the plaintiff’s claims, police reports provide an additional source of evidence. According to police reports, car accidents are objectively evaluated. He or she collects witness testimony and draws a diagram of the incident scene and describes the car accident in detail. Also included is a personal statement about the car accident and the observations the officer made.
Police reports give the jury a picture of what happened, regardless of whether the plaintiff or defendant saw the accident that way. In a police report, a picture of the scene of the accident is provided, avoiding the need to compare plaintiffs’ and defendants’ versions of the events. According to the law, police reports are inadmissible in court, which is why filing a claim without one is one of the most important reasons. In other words, it is not a complete account but can be used as testimony.
Why Personal Injury Lawyers Ask For the Police Report After a Car Accident
The police report is treated as a third-party witness to the motor vehicle accident. Unless a police officer happens to be on the scene when the accident occurs, they would be unable to provide a firsthand account of the event on their own. Rather, the police report summarizes the testimony of multiple witnesses and what followed the car accident. Police reports are important in the state of Florida, but they are also hearsay accounts. The police report does not legitimize or delegitimize any damages caused by the car accident. This is merely a report of what actually happened that can be used for litigation. As such, they hold some weight, so you should report the accident to a police station if you can.
How Do Insurance Providers View Police Reports?
A police report is actually not necessary for most insurance claims in Florida, particularly if there is only minor damage. There will most likely not be a police report required unless there has been extensive damage done to your property, you have been injured, or there has been a crime committed. An insurance company would be able to process the claim much faster if they had a police report on hand when filing it. There is no reason why a car accident insurance claim cannot still be filed, it would just take longer than if a police report had been filed.
How Important is the Police Report If the Case Goes to Trial?
In some injury cases, especially those resulting from car accidents, a police report may have been filed with respect to the underlying incident. If your case ends up in court, you may not be able to use a police report to establish who caused the accident. During the settlement negotiations phase of an insurance claim, police reports can be extremely valuable; insurance adjusters for every driver involved in the accident will use the police reports to get an idea of what caused the accident.
What Are Your Options If You Don’t Have a Police Report For Your Car Accident?
You can still file an insurance claim even if you do not have a police report for your car accident. It is not necessary to have a police report in all cases although it can be extremely helpful in some cases. Therefore, if you’ve been involved in a car accident, you should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. In order to begin this process, it is necessary to provide the information that is required in order to initiate a claim on our behalf.
In most cases, accident victims will have access to various other forms of evidence in addition to a police report to prove their right to coverage. You may still be able to secure coverage even if you don’t have a police report by presenting evidence such as:
- Taking photos and videos at the scene of the accident
- Eyewitness accounts
- Surveillance camera footage or traffic camera footage
- Evidence of where and how much damage your vehicle has sustained
- You should have your medical records (which should show that you have been injured in a traumatic accident) available.
What If Your Police Report Says You are At Fault For a Car Accident in Florida?
It may seem that you won’t be able to file for compensation against the other driver if the police report for your accident names you as the at-fault driver. However, that’s not always the case. Your evidence must be sufficient to contradict the police report and make the police report appear to be erroneous.
As an example, suppose that the police report states that a collision at an intersection was your fault. Let’s say, however, that four witnesses later testified that you were not the one who ran the red light, but that it was the other driver who did so.
Witness statements would be better evidence than police reports. If you believe you were not at fault, then you should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer ASAP – we have a talented team here in Florida. A skilled personal injury attorney can secure the vital evidence you would need to contradict the police report. Contact a lawyer who can investigate your car accident and prove what really happened.
Injured in a Car Accident in Florida? Call Herman & Wells
Our Florida car accident lawyers can help you if you’ve been injured by a negligent driver. This includes obtaining a copy of the police report (and knowing how to use it in negotiations with the other driver’s insurer). Whenever you feel that you are ready to speak with a lawyer about your situation, contact Herman & Wells so we can start working towards getting you fair compensation. Call (727) 821-3195 if you’re ready to speak with a lawyer about your car accident. We’ll get your free legal consultation scheduled at your earliest convenience.