Every year, nearly 40 million people visit their physician to treat an unintentional injury. Nearly 30 million people visit the emergency department for the same reason.
Can someone else be held legally responsible for your personal injury? If so, you may be able to file a lawsuit and open a case to recoup some of your losses.
The key is getting all of your details straight, and creating a thorough claim. The accident report created at the time of the event is rich with data and can help in this regard.
Are you wondering how to obtain an accident report? Today, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process so you can get the answers and information you need.
Why is an Accident Report Important?
Filed by the police immediately after an accident, an accident report is an account of every detail involved in your case.
For instance, if you are injured in a car wreck, the report will contain the following data, among other points:
- The location, date and time of the collision
- Identifying information for everyone involved
- Witness statements
- Information on personal injuries sustained
- Insurance information
- Descriptions of all vehicles, including vehicular damages
- A visual diagram of the accident
- Environmental factors (e.g. weather, lighting, road condition)
- Specific law violations
- Notes on probable causes behind the accident
In addition to motor vehicle accidents, other common types of personal injury cases include:
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Product liabilities or defects
- Animal and dog bites
In any case, the accident report will be similar. Its main goal is to describe the incident in great detail so there are fewer questions later.
Even a few hours after an accident, it can be difficult to remember everything that happened immediately before, during, or after it, this report gathers that data in real-time.
How to Obtain an Accident Report From the Police
There are several reasons why you might need a copy of your accident report. Maybe you forgot key details at the time of the accident and you need to add them and amend the report.
Or, maybe the police left the scene of the accident without getting your statement or input, and you want to include your perspective in the description of events.
If you decide to press charges against the at-fault party, your lawyer will also need a copy of the accident report to put together your case.
Here are the steps to follow when you’re ready to make your request.
Step 1: Contact the Police Department
To obtain a copy of your accident report, you’ll first need to identify and contact the police department that covered the accident.
Then, you can submit a formal request. Most of the time, you can submit this request in a way that’s the most convenient for you. Common options include:
- Mail-in request
- Online via the police department website
Sometimes, the police department will specify the preferred way to contact their office.
For instance, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) mandates that anyone who needs a copy of their report should mail a written request to the LAPD Records and Identification (R&I) Division. You should direct this request to the Document Processing Unit.
In addition, the LAPD also places restrictions on who can request a copy of this report. You’ll only be able to do so if you are:
- The victim
- The victim’s representative
- An authorized person per Section 6254 of the Government Code
These privacy restrictions are in place to ensure that only authorized, qualified parties are privy to the details surrounding your case.
Step 2: Pay the Fee
Some jurisdictions will allow you to obtain a police report for free. Others will require a fee. Usually, these fees are fairly menial and range from around $15 to $25.
You’ll submit your payment at the same time as your request. For instance, you can deliver a check in person or mail in your check. If you make your request online, you’ll enter your payment information over the internet.
Step 3: Wait
It can take up to a few weeks for the police department to process your request and deliver the report.
This is why it’s important to get your request in as soon as possible, especially if you are considering pursuing litigation.
Other Reports to Consider
If your injuries are the result of an auto accident, the associated police report can prove invaluable. Another report to request is the Traffic Collision Report, which can contain additional information on the incident.
However, personal injuries don’t always happen as a result of an auto accident, though these are common causes.
If your injury is the result of a crime, you can contact your local police department for a copy of the crime report associated with the incident. Again, there will be certain restrictions that apply depending on your case.
In California, you can obtain one free copy of your crime report if your injury occurs as a result of domestic violence. You have up to five years after the report is completed to make your request. You can also get a free copy of the crime report if you are a victim of:
- Sexual assault
- Human trafficking
- Abuse of an elder or dependent adult
In the above cases, you have two years after the completed report to request a copy. When working with the LAPD, a crime report will cost $26.
Legal Help For Your Personal Injury Case
Have you recently experienced a personal injury as a result of someone else’s actions or negligence?
If so, you could be eligible to recover some of the losses you’ve faced in the aftermath of the accident. From medical treatments to ongoing physical therapies and counseling, there are myriad costs that you could incur.
A qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer can help you cut through the legalese and navigate these next steps. This expert can also help you understand how to obtain an accident report to solidify your case.
Our legal team has deep expertise in personal injury law, as well as cases surrounding auto accidents, wrongful death, and more. Contact us today to discuss your case and connect.