The first objective witnesses to arrive at a car accident scene are often the police. After an accident, drivers are required to let the police know so they can make a report. This report is an important piece of evidence in any claim or lawsuit you make following a car accident injury.
Getting a car accident report is easy, but there’s a bit of paperwork involved. Bringing your report to a consultation will help your personal injury lawyer decide the best course of action to pursue a car accident settlement or take your case to court with a lawsuit.
Obtaining a Car Accident Report in California
In California, you can get a car accident report by mail for a small administrative fee. To obtain a car accident report, you must mail a request for the report to the Records & Identification Division of the local law enforcement agency or California Highway Patrol that arrived on scene and drafted the report.
Depending on the agency, you must mail a $10-$20 check or money order to this department along with the following information:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- The names of any involved parties
- A waiver to release information to your lawyer
- The car accident report number, if known
- The vehicle’s license plate number
If your injuries prevent you from getting a report for your personal injury case, your lawyer may request a copy on your behalf to prevent your case from stalling. Time is of the essence when pursuing compensation.
What Is in a Car Accident Report?
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), drivers must make a collision report any time a car accident results in an injury, a fatality, or $1000 in property damage. Getting a car accident report will provide evidence that you deserve compensation.
Do not overlook the value of your car accident report! In addition to the facts, it might tell your lawyer how to contact the at-fault driver, their insurance provider, the investigating officer, and anyone who witnessed the accident.
The car accident report might also provide the following information:
- Accident date, time, and location
- Road and weather conditions
- Drug or alcohol involvement
- Points of impact on both vehicles
- Witness observations and statements
- Whether photos were taken of the scene
Your Car Accident Report Can Prove What Caused Your Accident
To help pinpoint the cause of the accident, your lawyer may glean information from your car accident report, such as:
- Mechanical defects on either vehicle
- Whether the at-fault driver was distracted at the time of the accident
- Driver actions that preceded the collision
- Road, weather, and lighting conditions
Each piece of information helps your lawyer build a case that supports your need for compensation. Anything that’s not in your favor is something they can build a defense for, but without the report, they may not find out until it’s too late!
Facts and Opinions in Car Accident Reports
While car accident reports do contain many facts about a car crash, not every piece of information will be objective. There will be opinions from the witnesses, the driver statements, and eyewitnesses.
Naturally, we will want to find more evidence that supports opinions in your favor. Our team does this in several ways, including interviewing others ourselves to understand how they came to their conclusions.
If your case does go to trial, distinguishing facts from opinions is crucial. There are even legal techniques that could throw out an accident report under hearsay rules. A car accident report is just one piece of a larger puzzle, but an important one.
Many Causes of Car Accidents in California Involve Negligence
In most personal injury cases, including car accidents, one of our key tasks is to prove negligence. Your accident report can be a major key in proving negligence. One reason is because it will have the officer’s opinion about the case. The most commonly reported causes of car accidents are:
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Disregarding traffic signs and signals
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving faster than the posted speed limit
- Failing to safely make a left turn
These are all forms of driver negligence. If one or more of these factors caused your car accident and performed by the other driver, your lawyer might prove the other driver is to blame so you can get compensation.
Get a Copy of Your Collision Report Right Away
Grab a copy of your car accident report and share it with your legal team as soon as possible. The sooner your Los Angeles car accident lawyer gets involved in your pursuit of compensation, the more time they might have to prepare and file your lawsuit.
The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §335.1 generally gives you two years to file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation after a car accident. If you do not file your case on time, you might not be able to pursue compensation at all.
Do not let time run out on your chance to pursue compensation from a negligent driver. Your car accident lawyer may help you determine the right filing deadline for your car accident lawsuit after receiving the report.