If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you should always contact the police to file a car accident report, no matter how minor you think it is. Insurance companies often see a police determination of who is at fault for the crash as highly-persuasive evidence. Being able to point to an official police report that supports your side of the story can help you avoid situations where the only evidence you have is your testimony.
What is a car accident report?
A car accident report is either filed by a law enforcement officer or a person involved in a motor vehicle crash. The report summarizes the details of the accident, including:
- The damages and injuries caused
- The parties involved
- The location of the accident
- A narrative summary of the events
- Any citations issued or charges made
How do I make a car accident report?
Reporting methods will vary depending on where your accident occurs. If you’ve been involved in a non-emergency car accident, you should contact the local police department for non-emergencies to inquire about making a report. You should always call 9-1-1 in emergency situations.
Do I need to file a police report for a car accident?
Under Texas Transportation Code § 550.026, you are legally required to immediately inform law enforcement if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash that results in any of the following:
- Injury to a person
- Death of a person
- Damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be normally and safely driven
If the accident results in injury to or the death of a person or damage to the property of any one person to the apparent extent of $1,000 or more, Texas Transportation Code § 550.062 requires a police officer to submit a Peace Officer’s Crash Report (Form CR-3) to the Texas Department of Transportation within 10 days of the accident.
Before September 1, 2017, individuals involved in accidents not investigated by an officer were required to submit a Driver’s Crash Report (Form CR‐2). When Texas Senate Bill 312 went into effect, the state-wide requirement was eliminated. However, counties and city governments, such as the City of Houston, still require Form CR-2s to be filed with local law enforcement when an officer does not investigate an accident.
Regardless of the legal requirements, a police report can provide crucial evidence supporting the other driver’s liability in your car insurance claim. If it’s not clear who is at fault based on the damages to the vehicles involved, it’s even more essential to have a police report as evidence to document what happened in the crash.
For instance, by looking at the damage to the cars involved in a rear-end collision, it is typically fairly apparent that one car hit the other from behind. Compare that to the damage in a side-impact crash, which could have been caused in a variety of different ways. In these instances, a police report documenting witness statements can support your side of the story and strengthen your claim.
How long do you have to report a car accident?
When someone is required to file a (Form CR-3) with the Texas Department of Transportation, they must do so within 10 days of the accident. While CR-2s are no longer required to be filed with the state government, municipal jurisdictions may require you to file a police report.
For example, Houston Code of Ordinances §. 45-286 requires the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident within the city limits resulting in property damage in excess of $1,000.00 to report the accident either to the investigating police officer or in-person to the police department, within 24 hours of its occurrence. The time limits and reporting requirements will vary depending on the location of the accident.
Do I have to contact my insurance company?
Most auto insurance policies require drivers to report any crashes they are involved in to their insurance providers, regardless of who is at fault. Any time you are in a car accident that results in property damage, injury, or death, you should contact your insurance company as soon as you can to report the crash.
While it is best practice to contact your insurance company within 72 hours of an accident, your policy may have notification deadlines. If you’ve been involved in an accident, make sure you review your policy and comply with any reporting requirements. Failing to do so may cause your claim to be denied.
When should I contact a car accident lawyer?
You should contact a knowledgeable car accident lawyer as soon as possible after a motor vehicle crash. As for-profit businesses, insurance companies will try to pay you the lowest settlement possible. Claims adjusters are trained to look for any reason to deny or diminish your claim, so it’s best to have an experienced car crash attorney on your side. Your attorney can manage all communications with the insurance companies involved, so it’s essential to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The earlier you involve a car accident lawyer, the more they can help you.
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