An accident report, which is also commonly known as a crash report, is a detailed record created by a law enforcement officer who arrived at the scene of the accident sometime soon after it occurred. They typically contain a written account of the events leading up to, during, and after the accident, from the perspective of the various people involved, as well as the perspective of the officer(s).
These reports are then sometimes used by the police to open an investigation into the accident, which can be especially useful if the damage or injuries caused is severe, or if the accident might have involved a crime. They are also useful for data-gathering purposes when determining how safe certain vehicles, roads, or neighborhoods are.
But an accident report can also be useful for you, a driver involved in the accident, for a number of reasons, including when working with your insurance company or if you decide to pursue filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for the crash.
But First, What to Do Immediately After a Car Accident
Before an accident report can even be considered, a motor vehicle accident of some kind must occur. This can be a crash between multiple passenger cars, an accident involving a semi-truck or tractor-trailer, an accident with pedestrians or cyclists, or an accident that involves other property damage. When any such accident occurs, you are required by law to stop your vehicle. This is true whether or not you caused the accident or were a victim of the accident. Pull off to the side of the road and address the situation only if the circumstances make it safe enough to do so.
Next, call for emergency medical help for anyone who might have been injured during the accident and needs immediate attention. Again, no matter who caused the accident, getting people the medical attention they need is of the utmost importance. Only after that step has been taken should you then call the police to the scene, if you feel a call to law enforcement is warranted. Read the next section to learn more about when you must legally call the police after an accident.
While waiting for law enforcement to arrive on the scene, feel free to communicate with the other drivers involved if you feel safe and comfortable doing so. Exchange contact information and insurance information as needed, but don’t feel pressured to give the other parties any more information than that. Also refrain from admitting any kind of fault or making any apologies in relation to the accident, as this could hurt a potential claim or lawsuit you file later on. And never leave the scene of the accident until a police officer tells you you’re free to do so.
When Are You Required to File an Accident Report?
Though it’s usually advisable to file a report after any accident in order to make sure you’re covered when you file an insurance claim or decide to file a lawsuit, in the state of Missouri, not every car accident requires having a report filed with the police afterward. You are only required by law to file such a report if:
- The accident happened less than one year from the filing date.
- The accident involved an uninsured or underinsured motorist, AND
- The accident caused property damage in the amount of more than $500, or someone was injured or killed during the course of the accident.
You may, however, still choose to file an accident report if the accident didn’t cross the threshold of property damage, injury, or death, but an uninsured motorist was still involved (though you are not legally required to do so).
If you’re unsure about whether or not a call to the police is necessary after an accident, it never hurts to air on the side of caution and make the call. The attending officers can let you know whether a report is needed in your scenario, and will most often still agree to file one if requested. If you don’t end up calling the police but decide you’d like to file an accident report after the fact, you do still have the option to do so. You can file a report through:
- The Motor Vehicle Accident Report website (fill out Form 1140)
- Your insurance company
- The Driver License Bureau
- Any license office
What is an Accident Report Used For?
An accident report is used to provide an accurate and detailed account of a car crash. Reports can vary depending on the type of accident and the jurisdiction in which it occurred, but each report will generally include:
- The name and contact information of the drivers, passengers, witnesses, and property owners involved in or who witnessed the accident.
- The location, time, and date the accident occurred.
- A description of the drivers involved, as well as their driver’s license information, car registration numbers, and auto insurance information.
- Statements about the accident from each of the parties involved.
- Any pertinent weather or road conditions at the time of the accident.
- A description of the kind of damage done to the cars, people, or surrounding properties.
- What laws (if any) were violated in the process of the accident, i.e. drunk driver, speeding, or a hit-and-run?
The police officers who create and file the report will largely use it for their department’s own records, and to reference as part of their investigation into the accident if they determine it’s necessary to open one. But when it comes to how your report can serve or affect you personally, its relevance is most closely associated with your car insurance provider, as well as if you decide to file a lawsuit against the driver responsible for the crash.
Your insurance provider will want to know the details of the crash in order to see how you might qualify for coverage under your own policy with them, and the accident report will be their most important resource for this. A court of law will also use the accident report as evidence should a lawsuit be filed. And if you believe the other driver’s negligence caused the accident, an accident report should hopefully help to prove that’s the case and work in your favor.
How to Obtain an Accident Police Report
One of the most common questions we receive from people who have been involved in a car accident and are beginning to explore their legal options is, “How can I get a copy of my accident report?” You are legally entitled to a copy of your report if you would like one, and you can reach out to the police department where the report was filed in an effort to obtain it. However, though the steps may sound easy, the process of actually obtaining it can be frustrating, especially if you’re focused on recovering from any injuries you’ve suffered in the accident.
An accident report generally becomes available within 5-10 days after it’s initially filed with the police, but they can sometimes require people to jump through confusing hoops before finally getting their hands on it, making it a frustrating and unnecessarily extended process.
If you need assistance with obtaining a copy of your accident report, you should speak to a Missouri car accident lawyer for guidance. Their office will know how to work with the police directly, will be knowledgeable about which forms to file, and can subsequently help you determine how accurate the report is.
If there are any inaccuracies, they can also advocate on your behalf to have the report remedied as needed. From there, they can also help you determine whether or not you should consider filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for the crash in an effort to receive the compensation you deserve.