Vehicle accident reports, or police reports, are detailed records which are written by the law enforcement officer who was present at the scene of the automobile accident. Generally, a vehicle accident report will contain an account of the events that led up to, during, and occurred after the accident.

Vehicle accident reports will usually be available between 2 to 5 business days later. There are numerous reasons why law enforcement maintains detailed written reports regarding car accidents.

One reason is so they can investigate the accident. This applies especially in cases involving criminal offenses, such as stolen vehicles. Another reason is to provide information to the community, which may help deter future accidents or criminal activity.

Additionally, the report may be used as a key piece of evidence by a driver or the victim of the car accident for two main reasons. First, the report may be important evidence when an individual files a claim with their automobile insurance company.

Secondly, an individual may be able to use the report as physical evidence if they decide to bring a lawsuit against the driver who was responsible for the accident. It is important to note, however, that police reports may only be used as impeachment evidence if the case is criminal based on the rules of evidence.

If an individual needs assistance obtaining a police report or has any questions regarding vehicle accident reports in general, it may be helpful to consult with a personal injury attorney.

How Can a Vehicle Accident Report Help Me?

One of the main ways in which vehicle accident reports may help an individual is proving that the accident actually occurred. Reports may also be useful because they can be used to identify which insurance carrier to contact.

The report will also put the insurance carrier on notice that an accident occurred and that they should be on alert that a claim may be submitted in the near future. In certain states, the law enforcement officer who is present at the scene will declare which party is at fault based on the surrounding evidence.

In these states, a vehicle accident report may then be used as evidence to support the causation element of a negligence claim. In other words, it may be used to show that a driver was both the actual and proximate cause of the accident.

For example, the vehicle accident report may state the one driver was the actual cause of the accident because, but for the other driver crashing into the plaintiff’s vehicle, the accident would not have occurred. Additionally, vehicle accident reports may be used to determine the injuries that occurred immediately after the accident and can be used to link those injuries to the accident.

This may be very beneficial for individuals who are attempting to claim damages because it may be difficult to recall how the individual was feeling if they are in shock following the accident.

Injuries which may be documented in a vehicle accident report include:

  • Head or neck injuries;
  • Injuries related to whiplash;
  • Spine or back injuries;
  • Lacerations or broken bones; and
  • Various other conditions that might require medical attention.

On the other hand, the defendant may attempt to use the same accident report to prove that they were not liable for the accident. For example, if a plaintiff’s injuries change or do not match the statements that are contained in the report, it may hinder the plaintiff’s ability to recover damages.

It is important to remember that it is illegal to provide false information in a vehicle accident report. If an individual provides false information to law enforcement, it may lead to serious legal ramifications.

When Does an Insurance Company Total Your Car?

An individual may require assistance with understanding what steps to take when an insurance company totals their vehicle. In certain auto accidents, the damage to the vehicle may be so much that it is not financially viable to repair the vehicle.

In other words, it may be cheaper to have the car totaled, or sent to the junkyard. This decision is typically based upon the type of automobile insurance policy an individual has as well as the extent of the vehicle damage.

In the majority of cases, an insurance company will suggest totaling a vehicle if the repairs will cost more than a certain percentage of the vehicle’s value prior to the accident. Some policies may total a vehicle at 51% of the pre-accident value while others may be higher.

These rates may also be affected by state insurance policies. An insurer will then pay the vehicle owner a certain amount, which will allow that individual to purchase a new vehicle.

What are the Alternatives to Letting an Insurance Company Total Your Car?

In the majority of cases, an individual is not required to let an insurance company total the car if they do not want to. In these cases, however, the individual will be required to shoulder the costs of repairs themselves because the insurance company is not likely to cover damages which are too expensive.

If this issue arises, an individual may be able to pursue legal action against another driver in the accident. In some cases, an individual may be able to negotiate regarding the insurance claim and see if the company will cover all or some of the repairs.

The insurance company may be required to reimburse the individual for the amount they would have received for the vehicle through a salvage yard. However, once an individual decides to forfeit their vehicle to an insurer, it will be difficult to get it back.

What Are Some Disputes over the Totaling Process?

Legal disputes may arise related to the totaling process, including:

  • A misrepresentation of the price of the vehicle or its value by the insurance company;
  • Insurer’s unwillingness to reimburse the policyholder for charges that they are entitled to.
  • Issues with fraud or misrepresentation in documents; or
  • Various other issues, for example, issues with a replacement rental vehicle.

One step an individual can take to avoid legal issues is to double check any figures and value amounts which are presented to them by the insurance company. Many vehicle owners end up getting less money than they should because they did not know what the actual value of the vehicle was prior to the accident.

Can I Settle a Claim Without Going to Trial After an Auto Accident?

Yes, it may be possible to settle a claim for an auto accident without going to trial. The majority of these types of cases never actually reach the trial stage of the lawsuit.

Most cases are settled at some earlier point in the process through settlement negotiations. Settlement agreements are a way an individual can avoid a costly trial as well as to conclude their case in a shorter period of time.

A settlement agreement also allows lawyers to take on more cases than they would be able to handle if every case went to trial. In certain cases, the parties may settle a lawsuit before it is even filed.

If the facts of the case are relatively clear and there is little disagreement regarding which party was at fault it is in the best interest of all of the parties to come to an agreement and to save the time and money associated with filing the lawsuit. In many cases, insurance companies are involved that have a wealth of knowledge and experience with the legal process.

Insurance companies will also want to avoid any unnecessary costs and are typically open to engaging in settlement negotiations.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Car Insurance Disputes?

Handing issues involving insurance companies are often complex. It is important to remember that the insurance company always has their bottom line in mind.

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to a car insurance dispute, it may be helpful to consult with an insurance lawyer. Your attorney can advise you regarding the laws in your jurisdiction as well as assist you with obtaining the legal remedy that’s appropriate for your particular issue.