Car accidents happen every day, but that doesn’t mean people know how to handle them. The moments after a car crash can be very confusing. People don’t always do the right things.
Here’s what you’re supposed to do:
- Stay put. Don’t leave the scene. (But get out of harm’s way ASAP!)
- Call the police. Wait for them to arrive.
- Seek immediate medical attention in the event of an emergency.
- Take photographs and document the scene.
- Notify your auto insurance carrier. Call a car accident lawyer.
More often than not, the police will arrive soon after you call them. They’ll file an official police report and file it with the local office or the state. This official report becomes very important to car accident victims after the fact, as it can directly affect their claim to compensation.
But what if the police don’t file a report? Believe it or not, that happens sometimes. Do you still have a case?
Understanding the Role a Police Report Plays in an Auto Accident Claim
Police reports are helpful and important. But they aren’t required for you to claim compensation. In fact, many people are surprised to learn the official accident report isn’t quite as critical as they assumed.
A police report is essentially just a written record of what a law enforcement officer observed at the scene of a crash. It usually includes very basic information about the time and location of the accident, the identity of those involved, and the officer’s initial opinion about who was at fault.
Official police reports are generally considered to be very strong evidence of how a collision happened. But they aren’t the “be-all and end-all.” Sometimes, despite their best efforts, police officers get the facts wrong. After all, in most cases, they weren’t there when the crash happened. And while they are highly trained, they aren’t traffic experts by trade.
So even if you had a police report, it wouldn’t necessarily have a determinative impact on your accident claim. There would still be an opportunity for either side to challenge it, or to introduce other evidence.
Likewise, a claim for compensation can usually proceed even in the absence of a police report.
While you might be missing one particular type of evidence (an officer’s official report), there may be many other kinds of evidence relevant to your case. An experienced Bakersfield car accident lawyer can help you determine the evidence that might be available for your claim.
Reasons Why There Might Not Be a Police Report After a Car Accident
If the police did not file a report after your car accident, you might be wondering why. This can happen for a number of reasons:
- The police department was overburdened. If your accident happened during a major local emergency, in a very remote location, or at a time when the police were overwhelmed by a more urgent matter, the local department might be unable to dispatch officers to the scene.
- There were no injuries or damages. Some jurisdictions do not require police to respond to accidents if it appears there are no injuries and no significant property damage. (Unfortunately, police dispatchers sometimes mistakenly reach this conclusion based on faulty information from the person reporting the accident.)
- Severe weather. Blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and other severe weather events can limit the police force’s ability to respond to auto accidents. Police departments may be unwilling (or unable) to put officers in harm’s way for anything that is not a life-threatening emergency. In some cases, the police department may determine that your own life would be endangered by waiting for an officer to respond.
- Lost police reports. Every once in a while, a police report simply slips through the cracks. The officer might forget or neglect to file the report. There have even been cases where an officer has passed away before the report could be filed.
- No one called the police. While it’s a bad idea to leave the scene of a car accident before the police arrive (in fact, it’s illegal in most jurisdictions), people sometimes make that mistake. If you and the other parties involved left without notifying the police, you might find yourself seeking compensation without an official accident report. This is likely to make your claim more difficult to pursue — but not necessarily impossible (especially if you have significant injuries).
Steps to Take After an Auto Accident When There’s No Police Report
If you’re in a car accident in California and learn that the police aren’t coming — or if the officers otherwise fail to file a police report — here’s what you should do:
- Seek medical attention if anyone is injured.
- Exchange contact information with the other parties involved (including eyewitnesses).
- Take numerous, detailed photographs of the scene (from multiple angles).
- File a police report yourself. Most police departments allow you to do this in person and/or online. Visit the local office or their website to learn how. You may even be under a legal requirement to do this in some jurisdictions.
- Contact your own auto insurance provider to report the accident. Give them the document number corresponding to your self-filed police report.
- Don’t talk to other side’s insurance company until you’ve discussed your rights with an experienced Bakersfield personal injury lawyer. We recommend that you store The Law Offices of Mickey Fine in your phone now for future reference: 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield (or 310-546-8146 in Manhattan Beach, CA).
Auto Accident Victims Have Rights, Whether There’s a Police Report or Not.
Do you still have a case even if the police did not file a report after your car accident?
In many cases, yes. Don’t let an insurance adjustor convince you otherwise.
Here’s the bottom line: if you suffered an injury, and that injury was caused by someone else’s negligence (for example, careless driving or a traffic violation), then you are entitled to financial compensation for your damages under California personal injury law.
Unfortunately, the insurance company on the other side is likely to fight against your claim, no matter how legitimate your injuries may be. They’ll likely try to use to lack of an official police report against you. But an experienced Bakersfield car accident lawyer can help you fight back, build a compelling case, and demand the justice you deserve.
Mickey Fine Is a CA Personal Injury Lawyer Who Understands That Every Penny Counts
If you have been injured in a car accident in California, you may have a case for compensation, even if the police did not file a report.
Don’t settle for less than you’re owed. Let our office fight to get you the recovery you deserve.
Contact The Law Offices of Mickey Fine for a free and confidential case review today.
We won’t charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. Call 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield (or 310-546-8146 in Manhattan Beach, CA) or contact us online right away.