September 8, 2020
A traffic accident can shake anyone up — even if it’s relatively minor. When you’re on a bicycle and fully exposed to the elements, an accident can be even more unsettling. That’s why it makes sense to prepare for this possibility in advance.
In this post, we’re going to examine the best steps for obtaining a police report in the wake of an accident — and discuss why doing so is essential.
If you are in an accident that is serious enough to require the attention of law enforcement, it’s critically important for you to obtain a traffic collision report at the scene of the incident.
Such reports often weigh heavily into insurance claim settlement negotiations, as they are perceived to provide an objective take on what happened.
While a report in your favor will not guarantee a favorable settlement or successful litigation, it may be very beneficial. Likewise, a report that is not in your favor does not necessarily mean you have no legal case or will not receive a fair insurance settlement.
In California, police will arrive on scene and make an official accounting of the accident within a traffic collision report. This report may offer information provided by witnesses or involved parties, and may indicate fault.
In most cases, it will be incumbent upon you to ask for this report. Many times the responding officer will provide you with a report number you can use for future reference. In the absence of this, you can contact the law enforcement agency that created the report and ask for access to the report. This may require a trip to the local courthouse, police station, or another administration building. Reports may take up to a week or more to become available, depending on the jurisdiction. There may also be a fee.
Remember, reports are not always accurate. In fact, they are sometimes riddled with errors. If you need to correct a report, consider doing so, but only after you consult with an attorney.
It is sometimes possible to have a report created after the fact, as long as the time elapsed between the accident and your attempt is reasonable. If contacting authorities was not possible for whatever reason at the time of the collision, you may attempt to have a report written the following day. However, such reports may not be as persuasive as an on-scene report in the eyes of a negotiator.
Gary Brustin is a lifelong cyclist and a specialist in bicycle accident law. In fact, these are the only types of cases that he will accept. If you’ve been injured in a collision or have suffered from the negligence of another, we urge you to contact Gary for a complimentary consultation.