- How to Obtain a Police Report After a Car Accident and Why It’s So Important
How to Obtain a Police Report After a Car Accident and Why It’s So Important
If you’re involved in an accident, one of the first things you’ll want to do (after ensuring the safety of everyone involved) is to get local law enforcement on the scene. Calling 911 as soon as possible is essential to receive professional help from not only police officers, but also emergency medical technicians and towing services if they’re needed. But, beyond that, one of the most crucial reasons to call 911 immediately is to guarantee a police report is generated.
What Information Does a Police Report Contain?
An official police report is a first-hand summary of the incident from multiple perspectives. In Michigan, it includes a detailed sketch of the accident scene and the officer’s written remarks outlining exactly what they believe happened based on observations made at the time. It also describes ambient weather conditions (whether there was snow, rain, fog, or even if driving conditions were absolutely perfect); lists everyone involved in the collision (including drivers, passengers and any pedestrians); indicates whether there was road construction in the area; states whether a driver was distracted (and by what) or was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and ascribes responsibility to whoever the officer feels was at fault for the accident, and indicates if anyone was ticketed. More on why that’s crucial information in a moment.
Why Is Getting a Police Report Necessary?
Even in a no-fault state like Michigan, it’s critical to know who caused an accident — a police report is a strong indicator of whose negligence caused the accident. If you’re not at fault, you may be able to recover for your pain and suffering, disfigurement, and/or economic damages beyond what your insurance policy covers. If the other driver was ticketed or found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the crash, the proof of responsibility contained within the police report can be key to your victory in court.
How Do You Obtain an Accident Report from the Police?
As you can imagine, a police report (called a UD-10 by law enforcement officials) is a fairly complex and comprehensive document. In fact, the Michigan Department of State Police has published a 169-page manual just to instruct officers how to complete these reports! Because of the level of documentation required, it can sometimes take several days or more for a police report to become available through the statewide online Traffic Crash Purchasing System. This same system permits citizens to obtain reports generated both by the Michigan State Police and all local police and sheriff departments across the state. To access your report, you simply need to enter the date of the accident along with some identifying information about either driver, or get the official crash incident number from the police jurisdiction that filed the report. A $10 fee is charged for each document requested.
Am I Required to Call Law Enforcement to Report an Accident?
If you don’t report your accident, a police report won’t be filed, which could leave you without crucial evidence down the road. And while some sources don’t recommend calling the police for seemingly minor crashes, we beg to differ. Any accident, even a minor bump-up, can cause significant damage to your vehicle that might not be immediately apparent, but becomes obvious when body shop personnel begin repairs.
Furthermore, your own magnificent but fragile human body can sometimes experience delayed onset of injury symptoms. The release of adrenaline following a stressful situation like a car crash can mask symptoms at first. It could be several days before you truly begin to feel the damage inflicted by an accident. Doctors call this “delayed presentation,” and it most commonly happens when accident victims begin to suffer from headaches, concussions, back pain, abdominal swelling, even post-traumatic stress disorder, in the days or weeks following a collision. If you don’t report an accident, and later begin to experience these kinds of symptoms, you might be out of luck if it ever becomes necessary to file a lawsuit.
Not only that, but immediately reporting some types of collisions to the police is a legal requirement in Michigan. If there are fatalities, failure to report an accident is a crime. The same reporting requirement applies if the damage to property (cars, traffic control devices, road signs, buildings, etc.) involved in the collision is obviously over $1,000. These days, a repair surpassing that amount can basically happen in just about any minor fender-bender!
Another thing to consider… If you fail to report a crash but later take your car in for accident-related repairs, Michigan law requires mechanics to report evidence they observe that could signal whether a vehicle they’re servicing has been involved in a collision. (You might also wish to know that this same law mandates mechanics to call the police when any vehicles show up with bullet holes!)
How Are Police Reports Beneficial in Lawsuits?
Police reports help locate the negligent driver(s) and any witnesses who could testify on your behalf. They also provide important factual background about your auto accident that an attorney can use to help maximize your claim. Even seemingly minor things like the exact time of the accident or the weather conditions may be vital to your case.
However, it is important to note that a police report is completed after the fact, so it may be possible that the opinion of the officer who completed the document could be later called into question in court. Likewise, a report containing significant errors or omissions could be less useful than one that is carefully and professionally written. This is why we suggest getting a copy of the police report describing any accident that you’ve been involved in as soon as possible — so you can examine it yourself to determine it’s accurate, complete, and detailed enough to help prove your side of the story should you have to file a lawsuit.
Then, once you have your police report, make sure a copy gets into the hands of your personal injury attorney. We’ll take it from there. To get things started, give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), visit our offices in Southfield or Detroit, or reach out to us online. You can also call us if you’re ever in need of our representation whether you’ve been hurt in a motor vehicle collision, involved in a motorcycle accident, injured aboard a bus, train or other form of mass transit, or suffer an injury just about anywhere.