You can file a car wreck report after the fact, but this is usually not the best option in most cases. If you are a victim of a car wreck, you should contact local first responders and law enforcement to come, evaluate you, and file a report about the accident.
This is the best approach since it can be very difficult to know if you suffered injuries – even some serious injuries – in the initial minutes and hours after an accident. It usually is not a good idea to tell a police officer or the other driver that you are uninjured. If your symptoms do not appear until later, that statement could hurt your civil case for compensation or insurance claim.
Each State Has Rules About Filing Car Wreck Reports
You can file a car wreck report after the fact, but the amount of time you have to do so depends on state law, in most cases. Consider these rules across the Gulf South:
- In Alabama, under Alabama Code §32-10-5, you must contact law enforcement about a car accident any time there is an injury or the possibility of an injury. This statute requires immediate reporting of an accident.
- Arkansas requires you to file an accident report as soon as possible if there are injuries or more than $1,000 in damages. Per Arkansas Code §27-53-202, you can handle this process yourself by filing an SR-1 with the Arkansas Office of Driver Services within 30 days of your accident.
- Louisiana requires accident victims to file a report with local law enforcement if there was an injury or if there was more than $500 in property damage, per Louisiana Revised Statutes (RS) §32:398. The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) also requires a copy of this report in many cases.
- In Mississippi, you have ten days to contact law enforcement and file a written report about your accident, according to the Mississippi Bar. A report is required if anyone suffered an injury, there was a fatality, or there was more than $250 in property damage.
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Reports from Car Wrecks Can Play a Key Role in Personal Injury Cases
While you may technically have a few days, a week, or a month to file this type of report, there are several reasons why you should file it as soon as possible. In most cases, unless the accident is very, very minor, and you do not intend to repair your vehicle, you should call law enforcement to the scene to complete the report.
Not only is it easier for you to call on the police and let them handle the process, but it also does several things to help your case later on if you need to file a liability insurance claim against the at-fault driver or take the case to civil court. This includes:
- Establishing a time and a place when your personal injuries likely occurred, especially when immediately followed by medical care
- Ensuring the police officer has an opportunity to interview witnesses on the scene
- Allowing the police officer to analyze what happened more clearly
- Offering a better opportunity for the other driver to receive a citation for their traffic infractions that led to the accident
In all of these examples, filing your car wreck report from the accident scene with local law enforcement may offer additional evidence to support your car accident case. This can go a long way in proving fault and liability, the severity of your accident injuries, and your accident-related losses.
Failure to Report Can Deny You Coverage
When you report your car wreck, you start a chain of evidence about your story. Insurance companies have to trust these reports as accurate statements unless proven otherwise. If you don’t have a report, the insurance company has nothing to back up your statements.
Depending on your insurer and how much you can prove on your own, they may try to deny you coverage outright. After all, anyone could call them up and say they’ve been hurt in an accident. Without an accident report, you cannot back up what you say easily.
Beware of any driver who tells you not to report an accident. There is no benefit to you for failing to report. The other driver might not have insurance or fear a rate increase. It might seem kind to avoid reporting, but you will also lose out, plus face possible legal penalties if you’re ever caught.
Pursuing Compensation After Being Injured in a Car Wreck
To pursue damages after a car accident, you generally will need a police report of the accident. In some cases, your insurance company or lawyer will request this copy of the report, but it is your responsibility to ensure there was a report filed. This is not a problem in most cases, because those involved in the accident will call 911 and they will dispatch the police and other first responders.
The first responders will check for injuries and possibly transport the injured to the hospital. Meanwhile, the police will work to determine what happened and file a report about your accident. This report will detail the probable cause of the accident and who, if anyone, received citations and who was at fault.
This report will then be used to prove, in conjunction with other evidence, that the other driver caused your accident and is, therefore, liable for your personal injuries and damages.
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Obtaining a Copy of Your Accident Report
If you already plan to work with a lawyer, they can obtain an accident report for you. That said, if you get a copy yourself then you can show it when you’re getting your consultations. This will help them assess your chances.
After you give your statement to the police, you should receive a case number. After a few days, you can contact the police station to get a copy of the report. You may need to pay a small fee or wait longer if your jurisdiction is busy, but you can get it.
It’s not vital to have one before you talk to a lawyer. In fact, if you’ve been recovering in a hospital for a while then you can use your medical records as another way to document your injuries and show you have a case.
Since legislation and procedure may change depending on the state, it is wise to work with a local attorney. For example, if you were injured in a New Orleans crash, contact a car accident lawyer in New Orleans, LA, for further guidance.
Contact the Office of a Car Accident Attorney to Learn More Today
At the Morris Bart law firm, our car accident attorneys represent accident victims in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We may be able to help you secure compensation through an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit.
Call us now at (800) 537-8185 to speak with an attorney about your case today.
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