Filing an Auto Insurance Claim: When Do You Need a Police Report?
Certain accidents absolutely need a response from local law enforcement – local Police, Highway Patrol, Sheriff or other entity. Which department responds will be based on the jurisdiction in which the accident happened. But do you always need a police report?
In several instances, it is necessary. These would include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
• Any accident in which someone is injured
• Any accident where one or more drivers flee the scene
• An accident where there is serious damage to either or both vehicles
These circumstances can be traumatic and collecting ALL the information you need may be difficult at the time. Also, if anyone is injured, you will want a record with some details of the injury. The police report forms allow an officer to cover most possible details that would be required for the police department, courts, and certainly, for the adjuster. The officer is also able to verify some information and to search any information that a driver cannot provide at the scene.
Additionally, your insurance company may require you to stay and report the accident, such as the case where the other driver flees the scene. Or, your carrier may accept a ‘counter report’. You physically go to the nearest law enforcement office and complete an accident report, and secure a copy to provide to your insurance company. This is typical in very large ,busy jurisdictions; officers may respond to the scene, but if no injuries are reported and the vehicles appear to be safely driveable, they may advise you to go to the nearest station and complete a ‘counter report’, or they may provide the form to you at the scene.
There are also cases where it may be more helpful to have a police response and a report made even if they don’t meet the criteria above; these could include:
• An individual admits blame but insists on offering you a cash payment and will not provide you with his contact information, including his insurance information, stating he doesn’t want to have a negative report with his carrier. If he appears to be leaving the scene, jot down his license number and details of his vehicle.
• The other driver admits that he does not have any insurance coverage but offers to pay you cash for your damages. He may not be truthful with contact information, but the police may be able to locate some information.
• The police report provides a very orderly form to collect all the important data, including some crucial details. It’s not unusual, in an already stressful setting, to forget which details to secure. This report will then be ordered by the adjuster in order to gather and coordinate details that may be unknown to or forgotten by her policyholder or the claimant.
Most importantly, even if an officer has collected contact information for everyone involved, do your best to also secure that information yourself, right at the scene. It can sometimes takes weeks, or even months, depending on the jurisdiction, for an adjuster to secure a copy of the report. If you’ve jotted down insurance information for everyone, the adjuster will be able to begin a full investigation right away.
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