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Why Do You Need an Accident Report (and How to Get One!)

There’s a lot to think about after a car accident. You’re wondering if you have injuries and stressing over the damage to your vehicles—the last thing you’re worried about is the accident report. However, this is a mistake. While you don’t need to stress over the accident report, you’ll need a copy when it’s time to file a claim with your and possibly the other driver’s insurance.

So, the question is: how to obtain an accident report. After all, the responding officers aren’t handing out copies at the scene. You may also be wondering if you really need your accident report. The answer is yes.  Before your claim for injuries and/or property damage can start moving, you’ll need to submit a copy of the official accident report.


What is an Accident Report

An accident report is precisely what the name implies: the report is an official account of the accident. Don’t mistake an accident report for a full investigation. Think of the report as a preliminary look at the cause, consequence, and outcome of the accident.

The form, usually a single sheet though sometimes it’s composed of two pieces of paper, has various fields for the responding officer to fill in. Most accident reports also have the seal of your local police department or jurisdiction to help ensure their authenticity. Yes, this is something insurance companies will look for when you submit your accident report.

Why Do You Need to File an Accident Report

There are a couple of reasons why you’ll need to file an accident report. Depending on the severity of the accident, filing a police report may be a legal requirement. In Florida, you must report all traffic collisions if anyone suffers any injuries or a fatality occurs. You’ll also need to alert the authorities if property damage from the accident exceeds $500. Drunk driving and hit-and-run accidents also require a police report.

If you and the other involved driver/s decide not to immediately report the accident, this may be okay from a legal standpoint. This only applies if the car collisions don’t meet the state’s requirements. However, it’s still a good idea to file a report, and you can still file a report within 10 days of the accident.

Information Included in an Accident Report

Your accident report contains a lot of information about your vehicle collision. Some of the details like the date, time, and location of the accident are pretty basic. Other information like accident details is a little more in-depth.

To help inform you, here’s what you can expect to find in your accident report:

  • The date, time, and location of the vehicle crash
  • A description of the road conditions, lighting, and weather conditions
  • The make, model, year, registration, and license plate numbers of all involved vehicles
  • Complete details of the accident. This typically includes the type of road, for example, an intersection, and estimated damage to the involved vehicles. This section may also include details on if the responding officer suspects that speeding, negligence, or intoxication played a role in the cause of the accident.
  • A diagram of the accident scene. This can include information about visible road signage and whether traffic lights or stop signs are present. The diagram can also indicate crosswalks and lane mergers to name a few examples.
  • The contact information for all involved parties, along with a description of noticeable injuries. This section will also indicate if anyone was taken to the hospital.
  • Witness names, contact details, and statements when applicable.
  • A description of any property damage. This includes vehicle damage and any other type of property. For example, if the collision sends a vehicle into a fence.
  • The name, police agency/department, and badge numbers of the responding officers.

This is information your insurance will request when you file a claim. If you decide to pursue a personal injury claim, your attorney will also need the details included in your accident report.

How to Get a Copy of Your Accident Report

You’ve probably already guessed that your report isn’t going to be available by the time a tow truck arrives on the accident scene. There’s a lot of information to include in the report and this takes time.

Most responding officers only take notes and wait until they’re back at the station before typing up an accident report.  So, how long do you need to wait before requesting a copy of your accident report? In most instances, it takes around 7 business days before the report is ready. When it comes to getting a copy of your accident report, it’s pretty simple. You even have options.

You can head down to your local police precinct and request a copy of your accident report. If you’d rather skip a trip to the police department, you can still get a copy of your accident report online. You can also make the request over the phone. Just call the state’s Department of Transportation number and request the records department.

If you decide to get your accident report online, you’ll need some information like your VIN, case number, driver’s license number, or the names of the individuals involved in the accident. After inputting the requested information, the website will pull up a copy of the accident report.

Before you get too excited and start hitting the Print key, you’ll need to pay a nominal fee. In Florida, the fee is around $10 for accident reports. Yes, you can use a debit or credit card.

If you visit your local police department, you can usually pay with cash, card, or check. Over the phone, you can only use a debit or credit card.

You Need Your Accident Report to File a Claim

Whether you’re filing a claim for property damage, injuries, or both, you need your accident report. Think of it as proof that the accident occurred precisely the way you’re reporting it to the insurance company. Your accident report is also considered evidence in a personal injury claim. Without a copy, most personal injury attorneys aren’t going to be able to proceed with your claim.

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