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How to Report a Car Accident to the Police

Updated February 23, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Do you really need to report a car accident to the police?

The answer is yes.

No matter how minor the collision, filing a police car accident report is a good idea—it can save you money, time, and hassle. Police reports are valuable documents used when negotiating settlements with insurance companies, investigating the scene of the incident, and building a strong car accident case.

Indiana Laws About Reporting Car Accidents

In some cases, it’s not just a best practice to file a car accident police report: It’s the law.

In Indiana, you must report any motor vehicle collisions involving injury, death, or entrapment of another person to law enforcement. Additionally, you are also required to report accidents where damage to property (other than the vehicles in the collision) occurs.

However, regardless of whether your crash falls under these circumstances, filing a police report is essential if you want to pursue legal action and get compensation for your damages.

Why You Should File a Car Accident Police Report

Usually, police reports cannot be used as admissible evidence in a trial, but they provide a lot of useful information for your car accident attorney. They are often used to determine liability during insurance settlement negotiations, and they are a helpful starting point for car accident investigations.

When to Report a Car Accident to the Police

The first step after any car accident is to call 911.

For serious crashes, such as when someone is injured or killed, property is damaged, traffic is blocked, the other driver is intoxicated, or there is debris on the road, law enforcement and any necessary emergency medical services will be dispatched to the accident scene. The police officer will write up an accident report for you.

For minor collisions, such as a fender bender, law enforcement may decline to respond to the accident scene. If a police officer does not investigate, no police report will be filed, so you should report the accident as soon as possible.

Police Officer Writes Car Accident Report

A police officer will likely record the following information in an accident report:

  • Date and time of the accident
  • Diagram of the accident scene
  • Description of the accident location
  • Description of visibility and weather conditions (rain, fog, snow, darkness, etc.)
  • Personal information, insurance details, and statements of all involved parties
  • Witness contact information and statements

Make sure you write down the officer’s name and badge number so you can follow up if needed.

Reporting An Accident To The Police After The Fact

Depending on the situation of your accident, police officers may not come to the scene to file a police report. The absence of police can be for a multitude of factors. If the collision is minor enough, a police officer may not show up, but make sure you call them regardless and follow their instructions.

Other factors include the location of the accident or the weather. Regardless of the police not coming to the scene, reporting an accident to police after the fact is always crucial. Having an official written statement of the collision may help you if you decide to pursue a future settlement or lawsuit.

Another main reason why police may not come to file a police report for a car accident is if there are no injuries. Speaking with the police about any injuries that may have occurred will help them determine if they will come to the scene of the accident or decide not to.  If law enforcement declines to come to the accident scene,  reporting an accident to police after the fact is of utmost importance. When you call the police to report the accident at the scene, make sure to describe what you see. If there are any injuries, they will be able to help guide you in next steps.

If there is a public emergency such as a natural disaster or pandemic restrictions, police may not show up to the accident. Your accident is still important, but there may be factors at large that prevent officers from leaving another situation or responding to one such as a minor collision.

Filing a police report after leaving the scene of the accident requires evidence. Since the police will not be present, you will have to record all aspects of the scene to include in your own report.

Gather as much evidence as possible to include in your report:

  • Date, time, and location of the accident
  • Description of visibility and weather conditions (rain, fog, snow, darkness, etc.)
  • Personal information and insurance details of all involved parties
  • If there are any witnesses, gather their contact information. They may be able to testify about the accident
  • Photos and videos of the accident scene. Record as much as you can about damages. If there are any streaks on the road, make sure you record that, as well. If you have a phone that records video, walk around and video the entire accident scene to make sure nothing is missed
  • Write out your own personal statement. The sooner you do this, the more you will be able to remember about what took place during the accident

How to File An Accident Report

Once you have gathered evidence, go to the nearest police station to file your accident report. All you need to do is go up to the front desk and ask to fill out an accident report. You also have the option of contacting the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

Can You File A Police Report Days After An Accident?

In the state of Indiana, you need to report the accident within 10 days of the collision. You are legally required to file a report if someone sustained injuries, death, or property damage. If there were serious damages, the police will most likely show up to the scene. If they do not, reporting an accident to police after the fact is your responsibility. If police do not show up to your accident after because there was no major damage or other factors, it is still in your best interest to file a police report days after an accident. It is up to the police to decide if they should or should not come to the collision site. Always give police the option to respond by calling the accident in.

If you have questions about reporting an accident to police after the fact, you can contact the attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham.

Tips on Reporting a Car Accident to the Police

When reporting a car accident to the police, either at the scene or after the fact, follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t panic or lose your temper
  • Don’t admit fault, accept blame, or apologize for the collision
  • Don’t exaggerate or approximate details
  • Don’t make statements about the severity of your injuries

Keep these tips in mind as you speak to law enforcement. An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate similar conversations with insurance agents and other lawyers.

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact an Indianapolis car accident lawyer of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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