There are several steps you should take if you are involved in a car accident. One of the first of these is that you should call 911 and make sure a police officer is headed to the crash scene. You may then want to turn your attention to a few additional tasks as you wait for a law enforcement officer to arrive.
Some measures you may want to take in the interim include:
- Performing a self-assessment to determine if you might have suffered injuries and either ensure an ambulance is on the way or prepare for the responding police officer to ask if you would like a paramedic to come to the scene
- Identifying witnesses to the crash and taking down their contact information
- Snapping photographs or taking video of the crash scene, vehicles involved, and your injuries
- Locating your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and auto insurance card
You can expect the responding law enforcement officer who comes to the crash scene to initiate the process of starting and completing a police report once they arrive.
In the olden days, law enforcement officers gave motorists a carbon copy of the accident report there on the spot at the accident scene. Nowadays, officers merely notate statements made by motorists and witnesses at the scene and then return to their precinct to prepare accident reports for distribution at a later date.
Police reports contain a wealth of information you, your car accident lawyer, and insurance adjusters may use to determine who was at fault for the crash. This is why you need to know how to secure an accident report following your crash.
What Valuable Information Is Contained in an Accident Report?
Police reports contain contact and insurance information for the motorists involved in an accident. While this basic information generally doesn’t help with liability determinations, other details contained in this report do, including:
- The date and exact time of the accident
- Weather conditions at the time of the crash
- Traffic patterns when the collision occurred
- The location where it occurred and a physical description of the area
- Whether the police officer issued any moving violation citations
- A description of the vehicle damage
- If there was any suspicion that motorists were intoxicated at the time the collision occurred
These reports often include a diagram of the crash scene and specific explanatory details (and sometimes witness accounts) of what occurred.
Insurance adjusters rely heavily on these reports’ contents in determining liability in a crash. This determination dictates whether the insurer may pay on your claim filed against the alleged at-fault motorist’s policy.
Also, since Maryland subscribes to the contributory negligence standard, insurance adjusters may use this report to determine whether you at least partially contributed to the accident. Any settlement you may be eligible to receive would be reduced by whatever contributory percentage they deem you to have played in causing the accident.
When Will a Police Report Be Filed in Baltimore?
There are three primary scenarios in which Maryland law requires you to summon law enforcement to the crash scene and have the responding police officer prepare a report. Those circumstances include any time:
- Someone involved in the accident is injured, regardless of whether the accident occurred on private or public property
- A hit and run occurred (Note: The report’s contents will vary based on whether the fleeing driver was identified or arrested)
- Government-owned and operated property, such as school buses, are involved in the accident
Filing a police report following an accident that didn’t result in injuries is often unnecessary, provided that the damage made to the property isn’t disabling and no government property was involved. Any Baltimore car accident lawyer would likely advise you to call 911 following any type of crash to have a police officer report to the scene out of an abundance of caution in case you discover property damage or begin suffering from injuries sometime later.
How Do You Get a Copy of a Baltimore Accident Report?
How you get a copy of the police report will depend on the law enforcement agency that responded to your crash. The primary ones that come to accident scenes in Baltimore include:
Please note that there’s a link to each law enforcement agency’s policies for requesting their police reports if you click on their names above.
The area in which your accident occurred dictates what law enforcement agency will come out to your crash scene. Each law enforcement agency has its own policies and procedures in place for requesting accident reports.
If you didn’t catch a glimpse of the responding officer’s vehicle or badge at the crash scene, don’t fret! Law enforcement generally hands out business cards with their contact information when telling you when the accident report will be ready and how to obtain a copy of it.
On average, it takes about ten business days from the date of the accident for you to be able to request the official police report. You’ll want to use the contact information to inquire if it’s ready. Many law enforcement agencies offer an option to print a copy by using its website instead of making you come to your local precinct to pick it up.
You may have to input the following details in the online database or provide a clerk with them in person to secure your Baltimore accident report:
- The report number, if you know it
- The date and the location of the incident
- Your full name and that of others involved in the accident
You may also be able to send in a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope along with payment to the police records office to have the report mailed back to you within two weeks.
How Does a Police Report Figure Into a Personal Injury Case?
As referenced above, an attorney or an insurance adjuster may use a police report to determine fault for a crash. However, a police report can have limited evidentiary value. Responding officers often arrive at an accident scene minutes after a crash occurs. Thus, their report can include a fair amount of hearsay, which may not be admissible as evidence in court.
However, this document still contains valuable information. An experienced attorney can review the report’s content and amplify any valuable evidence. Furthermore, the responding officer might be called as a witness along with other witnesses should the case end up litigated in court. The police report can be an important tool in building your case.
Even if your case never makes it into a courtroom, the accident report may serve as a tool for forwarding your version of events to an insurance adjuster. Accident reports are often key in negotiations between car accident attorneys and in establishing facts as part of an insurance claim necessary to prove fault.
For instance, a police report indicating that the other driver received a citation for driving under the influence or speeding can be crucial in establishing that you were not at fault and warrant compensation.
Interpreting an accident report and translating that into recovering compensation can be quite the feat. Allow one of our experienced Belsky & Horowitz, LLC attorneys to help you navigate the legal landscape. All it takes is a call or a quick email to establish a line of communication between the two of us.