How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report After an Accident?

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The police report is one of the most critical documents you will have after a car crash. It will help guide the insurance companies as they determine who was responsible for your accident. Most often, you will not file it yourself. The police file the report, and you can get a copy of it.

What Is in a Police Report?

A police crash report includes the following:

  • The cause of the crash (if the officer could reach a conclusion from what they saw)
  • The conditions at the time of the crash
  • The persons and vehicles involved

Even though a crash report is necessary, the law prohibits it from being used as evidence in any trial, as it would be considered hearsay.

When You Need to Report an Accident

Usually, you will need to report the car accident to the police at the time of the accident. Not only should you call the police to the scene, but you are likely under a legal obligation to report the crash. You must contact law enforcement if one of the following applies to your crash:

  • Property damage exceeding $1,000 resulted from your crash
  • Someone suffered bodily injury or was killed in the accident.
  • The insurance company requires you to call the police.
  • The local jurisdiction requires you to report the accident.

When in doubt, you should report the accident and have the police come to the scene. Getting a police car crash report can help protect you, especially when the other driver did something wrong. It is one thing to say what happened on your own. Having your experience reflected in a police officer’s report often carries significant weight with the insurance company.

You Must Make the Report as Soon as Possible

The legal requirement is contained in North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 20. Motor Vehicles § 20-166.1. When the driver was involved in any of the reportable accidents above, they must:

“…immediately, by the quickest means of communication, notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of the accident.”

Usually, the driver must contact the officer from the scene of the accident if they have the ability to do so. The police officer will then show up at the scene, and the drivers should wait for the police before they leave the scene of the accident. If you have been seriously injured, someone will likely call the police to the scene. The police arrive (along with the first responders), investigate the accident, and write a report.

The Police Officer Writes the Accident Report

The police officer will record their observations, and they may interview people who saw the accident. Then, it will be up to the officer to write and file the police report after the accident based on the results of their investigation. All North Carolina police officers must write a crash report within 24 hours of the accident. They will then forward it to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. Anyone can request a crash report from the DMV by filling out a form and paying $5.50 per copied page. However, certain personal information about the drivers is obscured from the general public.

In addition, the officer will forward it to the State Highway Patrol if that is their branch or the local law enforcement. The law allows the police officer to forward the report to the insurance companies identified by the parties, but they are not required to do so.

Police Officers May Write the Accident Report Immediately

Usually, police officers will write up the report at the scene of the accident unless they need to do some follow-up investigation. The law does not require them to draft a report immediately, as the police officer can interview witnesses and conduct subsequent investigations. If the police officer wrote the report at the scene, they will give it to you on the spot. Make sure to save this report and make copies because it is a key document.

By the time they leave the accident scene, they have usually reached their own conclusions based on what they saw. The crash report will usually be the starting point of the insurance company’s investigation. They may build on what the officer saw, accepting their conclusions because police officers are naturally credible parties.

You can attempt to draft your own report if the police officer did not show up at the scene. In extreme cases, the officer may be unable to arrive because of weather or conditions. However, it is rare that the officer does not come to the scene.

Call a Wilmington Car Accident Lawyer

The attorneys at Horton & Mendez work with car accident victims to help them get the financial compensation to which they are legally entitled if they have been injured by someone else’s negligence. Your first step is to have a free consultation with one of our attorneys, who will review your case and explain your legal options. Call us today at (910) 668-8067 or contact us online to set up your legal case review.

Car Accident Case FAQs

What if the insurance company reaches its own conclusion and denies my claim?

You have the ability to sue the defendant in court, and a jury will decide your case.

How long will my car accident case take?

It depends on your specific claim. While the legal process takes time, we cannot give a precise estimate.

What if I was partially at fault for the car accident?

North Carolina law denies any recovery to accident victims who bear any of the blame for the accident.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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