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How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident

Knowing how to get a police report for a car accident can help win your case

Have you been injured in an accident and need to know how to get a police report for a car accident?  Amazingly, this critical knowledge can mean the difference between winning and losing your case.  Even more importantly, the process starts right after you are injured.


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Even while dealing with your pain, doctor’s visits, and medical bills, you must take action to help your case.  Luckily, our guide on this page will help you learn the process.  And once you learn the importance of this process, contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Kitay Law Offices for immediate help!  You can reach us online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free police report review and consultation.

You have a responsibility to report your car accident to the police

Image showing police on site after a car accident

Do you know how to get a police report for a car accident? In this article we’ll explain how.

If you are involved in a car accident in Pennsylvania, you may have certain responsibilities under the law.  If you follow the rules, it will be much easier to get a police report for a car accident and help support your case.

In Pennsylvania, the driver of a vehicle involved in a collision must notify the police immediately under the following circumstances:

  1. the accident caused someone to be injured;
  2. someone was killed in the accident; or
  3. any vehicle involved in the car accident cannot be driven safely from the scene.

Importantly, if the driver is unable to contact the police (possibly because they are seriously injured) a passenger then has the duty to call.

Once you report the car accident to the police, the investigating officer has a job to do.  Under the law, the officer must complete a draft of the report within 15 days.  Sometimes, the accident may be complicated and require lots of additional investigation.  In that case, the officer can update the report at a later time.

Knowing how to get a police report for a car accident is important.  It can help your lawyer obtain the best result possible for you.  After making sure your car accident has been reported to the police, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Kitay Law Offices.  For a free consultation, contact us online or at 888-KITAYLAW,

What is a police report for a car accident?

When the police come to investigate the scene of an accident, they must record the facts and their observations.  You can think of a police report for a car accident as a summary of the most important information as it existed immediately following the accident.  Because the information is obtained so close in time to the accident, this document is very powerful.

PennDOT provides guidelines for both completing and reading police reports in Pennsylvania.  You can find this information in their helpful Police Officers Crash Report Manual.  And prior to obtaining the report, you should ask the investigating officer to give you some way of identifying it when you request it later on.  This may be called a Report Number, Incident Number, or something similar.  Often, the police officer can give you a card, like a business card, with this important number.

Have your police report and need to know if you have a case?  You should always contact a lawyer to review the facts and go from there.

How to get a police report for a car accident

Learning how to get a police report for a car accident is actually quite simple when you break it down into the following steps:

Step 1 – Report your car accident

Importantly, you must notify the police of your car accident before any report is created.  Above, we outlined your responsibility to do this depending on the facts of your car accident.  Also, keep in mind that it may take several days for the investigating officer to complete their report.

Step 2 – Have the necessary information for your request

When requesting the police report for a car accident, you will need to give some important information.  This is easiest if you already have the Report Number or Incident Number.  As we mentioned above, you can ask the investigating officer for this number at the scene of the accident.

However, you can still get the police report if you don’t have this number.  In that case, you will need some important information to help the police department find the correct report.  This can include the date, time, and location of the car accident.  Further, it helps to include any identifying information you have about the parties who were involved in the accident.

Finally, many local police departments provide their police report for a car accident online through a service called CrashDocs.  When you go to this website, you will be able to select the state in which your car accident occurred.  After that, you can select the local police department that responded to your car accident.  If they participate in this service, you will be able to find them in the drop-down list.

Step 3 – Request the police report

In many cases, you will need to directly contact the police department that investigated your car accident.  Each local police department will have its own rules and form to use in submitting your request.  Sometimes, you can even complete your request online.

For example, the Pennsylvania State Police allows you to submit your request both by mail and by using an online request form.  Also, if your car accident occurred in Philadelphia you must submit your request online to the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Records.

Step 4 – Pay for the police report

Unfortunately, police reports are not free.  Therefore, you must pay for a copy of your police report.  Generally, the fee will be somewhere in the range of $15-$25.

Step 5 – Review the police report

Knowing how to get a police report for a car accident is not enough.  Once you receive it, you must review it.  This is important for a number of reasons:

  • The police department may have sent you the incorrect report.  if so, notify them immediately.
  • Contact information may be incorrect.
  • Insurance information may be incorrect.
  • The investigating officer may have made a mistake in describing how the accident occurred.  If so, contact the police officer immediately to explain the mistake and ask for it to be corrected.

While we hope this guide helps you easily obtain the police report from your car accident, it can be difficult to understand all of the information it contains.  To find out if you we can help, contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Kitay Law Offices for a free police report review and consultation.  Reach us online or at 888-KITAYLAW.

Why do I need a police report for my car accident?

The police report is one of the most important documents in your case.  It can set the tone for how the rest of your case will go.  Importantly, it will likely contain some of the following information:

  • Contact information of the involved parties
  • Description of where the accident occurred
  • Explanation of how the accident occurred
  • List of any citations given
  • The police officer’s determination of who was at fault for the accident
  • List of witnesses to the accident

A car accident is a very traumatic event.  The stress, anxiety, pain, and adrenaline can make it very difficult to think clearly while you are still at the scene of the accident.  The police report will contain the important information you didn’t have the ability to gather yourself.

Also, the police report may show who witnessed your car accident.  This is very important.  Witnesses usually have no reason to lie because they are not actually in the car accident themselves.  As a result, you want to have this information as soon as possible.  You may be able to obtain additional witness statements to help win your case.

Finally, the police report contains information, statements, and observations very close in time to the car accident.  As time passes, memory fades.  What you or a witness once remembered very clearly can become confusing later on during your case.  Therefore, the police report can be a good way of jogging your memory about the facts of your car accident.

What information does a police report contain?

Each local police department collects slightly different information.  The Pennsylvania State Police have their own set of information that they collect, as well.  However, when you get the police report for a car accident, it will likely contain much of the following information:

  • The county and municipality of the crash
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers, and car insurance information for the parties involved in the car accident
  • Witness identifying information
  • Description of the vehicle damage
  • Explanation of any bad weather conditions, such as rain, ice, or snow
  • Description of any important street signs or stop lights
  • Whether it was dark or light outside at the time of the accident
  • A diagram showing how the investigating officer believes the accident occurred
  • Description of how the involved parties remember the accident occurring
  • The police officer’s opinion as to who caused the accident
  • Results of any drug or alcohol tests from the scene of the accident
  • Whether any pedestrians or bicycles were involved

And now that you know how to get a police report for a car accident, you can look to see whether it includes all of the information we have listed here.  For a free police report review and consultation to see whether you have a case, contact Kitay Law Offices immediately!  An experienced car accident lawyer is ready to help.  Contact us online or at 888-KITAYLAW.

How do lawyers and insurance companies use a police report?

The opinions contained in the police report from a car accident are used in many ways.  The car insurance companies covering the involved parties will be the first to use those opinions.  In many cases, the car insurance companies will decide whether to cover or pay for certain damage based on who the investigating officer believes was at fault for the accident.  In addition, the car insurance companies will conduct their own investigation.

Don’t trust the other driver’s insurance company

As we have already mentioned, some of the facts included in the police report for a car accident may be incorrect.  However, the insurance company may tell you that the police officer is right and you are wrong.  As a result, the insurance company may tell you there is nothing you can do about it.  Ultimately, you are told that your case is worth almost nothing.

We cannot say this enough: DON’T TRUST THE OTHER DRIVER’S INSURANCE COMPANY.  If you know the police report is wrong, speak up!  Contact the investigating officer to correct the mistakes.  And most importantly, contact an experienced car accident lawyer for help immediately.  Kitay Law Offices is ready.  You can reach us online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free police report review and consultation.

What will my lawyer do with the police report?

The police report is a great way for your lawyer to get a jump start on your case.  If witness statements are part of your police report, your lawyer may contact them to find out their version of events.  Importantly, if the witness remembers the facts in a way that is favorable to your case, your lawyer may obtain a written statement to help support your case.  This is also a good opportunity to clarify any differences between how the parties and witnesses remember the car accident.

Also, your lawyer may realize that some other party really caused your car accident.  For example, you may have been rear-ended while stopped at a red light.  The other driver may have told the investigating officer that they really did try to stop, but their brakes did not work correctly even though they just took their car to the auto shop to get them fixed.  As a result, the true cause of your car accident may have been the auto shop that performed poor work.

Finally, the police report may help your lawyer determine what types of damages you can recover for your injuries.  We have written previously about the differences between Full Tort and Limited Tort in Pennsylvania.  Interestingly, the information in your police report may indicate that you can recover Full Tort damages, even if you have Limited Tort on your car insurance policy.

Let us review your car accident police report!

At Kitay Law Offices, we review police reports every day.  Therefore, we can help determine whether you have solid grounds for a personal injury claim.  Especially if you know the police report is wrong, ask us for help.  Contact us online or at 888-KITAYLAW for a free police report review and consultation.

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