Why do I need a crash report?
If you’ve been involved in a collision in Arizona, the first thing you should do is contact the police, who will investigate the collision and file a report on their findings. This crash report will then be submitted to the Arizona Department of Transportation within 24 hours. It will include details relevant to the accident, such as who was involved and a description of what happened.
State law requires law enforcement to file a crash report if there’s been an injury, fatality, property damage over $2,000, or an issued traffic citation. You should never leave the accident scene, no matter how minor your injuries or vehicle damage might seem. Even if you don’t intend on pursuing an insurance claim, having the report on file could benefit you if you change your mind — or if another party initiates a claim.
Crash reports serve as crucial evidence for insurance claims. It’s an official record of events as compiled by an independent authority. It can also confirm your version of events and provide documentation of the investigating officer’s findings. Insurance companies always look for reasons to deny claims, but it will be difficult for them to dispute liability if law enforcement blamed someone else.
If you need to sue the at-fault party after a car crash, you can strengthen your case by using the crash report as evidence. It can show that you deserve financial compensation for your losses. If you’re represented by an attorney, they can use the details contained in the report to help get you the money you’re owed.
How does an accident report protect me?
Many people won’t involve their insurance company after a motor vehicle crash. They might think it’s not necessary because their injury or property damage is minor. Unfortunately, some accident victims end up regretting that decision down the road. That’s because the severity of some injuries can remain hidden for weeks or months. It isn’t until they’re in pain or have experienced a loss of mobility that they realize the significance of their injury.
You should always let a police officer prepare a crash report and file it with the appropriate government agency. That way, if you choose to file a claim later, you will have a piece of vital evidence to use during settlement negotiations. Some of the details an Arizona accident report could include are the following:
- Date and time of the crash
- Report number
- Investigating officer’s name, agency, and badge number
- Address or area where the accident occurred
- Information for all parties involved. That could include name, birth date, sex, address, phone number, driver’s license number, identifying vehicle information, name of the vehicle owner, and insurance carrier and policy number
- Names and contact information for witnesses to the accident
- Type and location of damage to all vehicles
- Injuries sustained by all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians
- Light, weather, and road conditions
- Description of events leading up to the collision, and in some cases a diagram of the accident scene
- Determination of fault
- Traffic citations issued
Since an impartial law enforcement official fills out the crash report, it will contain unbiased information. The details it contains could resolve any disputes you might have with other parties. Sometimes memories of the incident are different. If a report was filed, you could refer to it to determine what happened and who caused the crash. It can also settle any issues you’re having with the insurance company. They might try to argue that you don’t deserve the full amount you’re owed. However, if the officer stated that they had to, for example, arrest another motorist for driving under the influence, that could increase your compensation amount.
A state trooper or local law enforcement official will write the report; while you may be interviewed at the scene, you will not write it yourself. Do not leave the accident scene unless taken by medical professionals or told to do so by law enforcement. Not only could fleeing the scene ruin your chance of winning your case, but it is also illegal. You could end up facing hit-and-run charges, which carry penalties from fines and driver’s license revocation to a jail or prison sentence.
Common Questions about obtaining a crash report
Private citizens are not legally required to file their own crash reports. A law enforcement member is responsible for completing one if the collision resulted in:
- An issued traffic citation;
- Fatality; or
- More than $2,000 in property damage.
You wouldn’t need a report if there were a minor crash, such as a fender bender that resulted in no injuries or significant property damage. However, even if you think you were involved in a minor accident, an official report could protect your rights and prevent others from making false claims against you if either of you chooses to pursue a legal case in the future.
The other driver might decide they don’t want to wait for an officer if they believe the accident was a minor one. It is their right to leave if there are no injuries, fatalities, or property damage over $2,000.
It is critical that you don’t force them to wait or become aggressive. That could lead to a physical altercation. Ask for their name, contact information, and auto insurance details, so the insurance company can speak with them later if necessary.
You should also collect as much evidence as possible before they drive away. That includes photos of the crash scene, damage to both vehicles, debris in the road, and anything else that seems relevant.
You should not attempt to get witness statements yourself. It is best if you don’t talk to anyone in detail about what transpired. You could end up saying the wrong thing and reducing the amount of compensation you receive in the event of a future claim.
The investigating officer will speak to everyone who saw what happened and include that information on the crash report. Most people will leave before law enforcement arrives if the accident was minor and there weren’t serious injuries. However, if the crash was severe, witnesses tend to remain at the scene to provide crucial information that could help officers piece together the cause.
If you choose to hire an attorney, they could also track down witnesses and get their statements. Witnesses are useful in cases because they serve as impartial parties and can provide a written or oral statement during an insurance claim supporting your version of events.
There is a section on crash reports where the law enforcement official can include a diagram of the scene. They can essentially recreate the accident with images of the road, all the vehicles, and how they collided with each other. There’s also an area where they can write a description of what happened, and how it happened. It’s an excellent tool in determining who was at fault.
The law does not require an individual involved in an accident to file a report. Members of law enforcement have experience investigating car crashes. They also serve as an unbiased party, and are trained to present the facts as they see them without exaggeration or personal agenda.
Dealing with insurance companies
Insurance companies will request a copy of the accident report as part of their investigation when someone files a claim. It can guide them in determining the amount of compensation to which you’re entitled, based on the facts of the accident. If there isn’t a detailed report on file, they will have to use their judgment and opinions to come to a conclusion. That could lead to a denied claim if the other motorist blames you or a dishonest witness provides incorrect information.
To prevent this from happening, one of the first things you should do after an accident is to request a copy of the report.
We don’t charge for our service, so you can get your certified copy from us for free.