I Didn’t Get a Police Report After My Car Accident – Can I Still Sue?
The Police Report in a Car Accident Lawsuit
North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer on Car Crash Police Reports
After a car accident, the first things you should do are to get emergency medical care for anyone who needs it, and to call the police. A police report often provides valuable evidence for any car insurance claim and/or lawsuit you may file. It contains important information about all parties involved in the accident as well as the officer’s findings at the scene. However, you can still file—and win—a car accident lawsuit even if you do not get a police report.
The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, believe that Justice Counts. That is why we investigate all car accident cases beyond the police accident report in order to discover what really happened and who is truly at fault. The police report can be helpful to your case, but it is not essential. If you are considering a car accident lawsuit, a North Carolina car accident lawyer from our law firm can review your case and offer you legal advice, whether you got a police report or not. We have a history of success with car accident claims and over 160 years of combined legal experience. In one case, we obtained a settlement of $2.75 million during arbitration for a car accident victim.
What is a Car Accident Police Report?
In most situations, the North Carolina law enforcement officer who responds to a car crash must fill out a car accident report. The standard form used by state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies is known as DMV-349, which is a public record.
The DMV-349 accident report can provide some important details that can assist with your attorney’s independent investigation of the crash. Reports commonly include:
- Names, driver’s license numbers and contact information for each driver.
- Suspected alcohol or drug impairment and whether any tests were conducted.
- Information about each vehicle, including the year, make, model and vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Information about each vehicle’s owner and insurance coverage.
- In truck accident cases, information about commercial vehicles, such as the carrier’s U.S. DOT and ICC numbers.
- Names and seating positions of other occupants of the vehicles.
- Details about all car accident injuries and where victims went for treatment.
- The officer’s narrative about how the accident happened.
- A diagram of the accident, according to the officer.
- The officer’s description of the road and weather conditions at the time of the crash.
- Names and contact information of potential witnesses, especially eyewitnesses.
Although a police report is often useful, it is not a requirement for every car crash. State law requires officers to complete a report if any of the following apply to the accident:
- The accident caused a fatality.
- The accident caused a non-fatal personal injury.
- At least $1,000 in property damage resulted from the accident.
- The accident caused property damage to a vehicle that was seized.
- A vehicle was seized and subject to forfeiture.
This essentially means that an officer must submit an accident report in any crash other than one that causes only minor property damage and no injuries. However, it is a good idea to get a police report even for a minor crash in case your car accident injuries develop later.
How Does a Police Report Affect a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Not only can a police report provide important leads for an independent investigation of a crash, but the report itself may also be used as evidence in a car accident lawsuit. Plus, the investigating officer may also give testimony about the investigation. The report can help refresh his memory later when he is deposed or testifies in court. However, the officer does not have final say on who has civil liability for a car accident. The police report is the responding officer’s opinion of the crash – not necessarily what actually happened. Witnesses to the accident are vital to prove fault.
Liability is matter for the courts to determine if the parties involved cannot reach a settlement. This means that just because an accident report indicates that another driver was negligent does not guarantee that you will be able to recover compensation from that person’s insurer. The opposite is also true. If an accident report indicates that you were at fault, it does not mean that you have no chance of proving that you were not actually to blame. Eye witnesses to the car wreck can provide the most important evidence of liability.
How Do I Get a Car Accident Police Report?
You can request a copy of the police accident report for your car crash online from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles’ website. If the State Highway Patrol wrote the report, you can request a copy from the N.C. Department of Public Safety’s website. Some North Carolina cities, towns, counties and other municipal law enforcement agencies also make reports available online, by phone or in person.
The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, can help you get the accident report about the crash you experienced. In addition, we have a document that can help you read and understand the report (view it here and Stacy will get it to you).
What Happens If There Is No Police Report? Can I Still File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
In certain circumstances, you might not have a police report for your car crash. For example, if the accident happened on private property or did not meet the requirement stated above, the responding offer may not file a report. Additionally, in severe weather emergencies, the police may be unable to respond to minor accidents.
However, although a police report may be useful in an insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit, it is not an absolute requirement for success. In addition to – or instead of – an accident report, there are many other types of evidence that may play a decisive role in your car accident injury claim. Just a few examples of these kinds of evidence include:
- Photos of the accident scene.
- The damaged vehicles.
- Statements from the drivers involved and eyewitnesses.
- Skid marks and other physical evidence from the accident scene.
- Information from the vehicle’s data recorder, if applicable.
- Cell phone records that indicate a driver was texting or talking at the time.
- Video from a nearby security camera that recorded the crash.
- A professional reconstruction of the accident.
- Testimony by experts in vehicle design or manufacture.
Learn More in a Free Review with a North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer
Receiving the compensation you deserve for the losses you suffered in a crash involves much more than simply giving the insurance company an accident report and waiting for a check. You need a dedicated car accident lawyer who will fully investigate the crash, calculate the full extent of your losses and fight for every dollar you are entitled to receive. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Riddle & Brantley have the resources necessary to build a solid claim for the compensation you deserve.
A car accident claim calls for immediate action. Contact us now to find out how we can relieve you of the burden of worrying about the legal aspects of your accident. We have offices in Raleigh, Goldsboro, Kinston and Jacksonville, and we help accident victims from across North Carolina. The car accident case review is free, confidential and comes with no obligations.