Obtain the police report as soon as you can
After a car accident, one of the most important things to do after getting medical care is obtaining the police report. If an officer came to the scene, you were likely given an informational card with the report number and information regarding who to contact to get the report. Sometimes, police reports are ready within a week or two. However, in busier cities (i.e., Los Angeles), it can take weeks to get a report. There is usually a nominal fee to obtain the report.
In cases where liability is disputed, or even if there is a slight question regarding fault, it is important to get the police report. I tell clients that even if you have been rear ended, it is helpful to have the police report. Even if the other party apologized profusely at the scene and several witnesses are on your side, I've learned not to come to any conclusions until I see that report. There have been numerous occasions when clients assured me there was NO WAY the police report would be against them - and then guess what? The report comes in and it's against them! There are several reasons obtaining the police report quickly after an accident are important.
First, the police report helps determine fault. While it is not dispositive of the issue, a police report in your favor will help you a great deal when making a claim against the responsible party. Insurance adjusters rely on police reports when determining fault. In fact, some adjusters won't come to any conclusion until they have the report in hand - even if their insured admits fault. That is not to say they always side with the police report. However, armed with a favorable police report, you are much steadier ground.
Second, if you complained of injury at the scene, a police report will probably have that information noted. That will make your claim for injury more believable given that you complained of an injury at the scene. If there is no mention of injury in the report, some insurance adjusters will use that against you.
Third, it is more difficult for someone to change their story if it has been documented in a police report. People often change their story later on...especially if they fear repercussions from a parent, spouse, or someone else. Perhaps they have too many moving violations on their record and risk losing their license....or fear an increase in insurance premiums. Some folks go home after an accident and reconsider their story for one reason or another.
Finally, if the police report is in your favor, you have more options regarding obtaining medical treatment. You don't want to incur medical bills that you need to pay without any reassurance that you will be able to pay them. You don't want to take unnecessary financial risks, assuming the other party will pay for medical care. If the police report is in your favor, you might have some more options regarding how you obtain treatment for your injuries.
If you have been involved in a serious car accident and you need some guidance, feel free to contact our office at (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help you.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,