Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatizing experience, and it’s no wonder that details could be hazy. Anytime there’s an accident involving motor vehicles, the police should be called to document the accident. There could be vital information in that report that you may need later. But given that the police department is part of the government, which means there’s bureaucracy involved, you may not be sure how to go about getting the report. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Would I Need a Copy of the Police Report About My Car Accident?
Whether or not you were the driver at fault for the accident, having a copy of the police report can help you (and your attorney) prepare your claims or potential lawsuits.
Police reports usually contain valuable facts such as the people involved in the accident, the make and model of the vehicles and how old they were, road and driving conditions at the time of the accident, statements from all the drivers involved about what happened and who they think was responsible, and the contact and insurance information for all drivers involved (or pedestrians and bicyclists, if relevant). If there are going to be claims or lawsuits, this is a foundational document for preparing the case.
Does the Police Report Prove Who’s Liable for the Accident?
Not necessarily. Sometimes the reporting officer may offer an opinion about who is responsible for the accident, but the report often includes the observed facts. Even if the officer does point to one party as likely being liable, this may not hold up in court. Police officers aren’t considered traffic accident experts, and their reports rarely include accident analysis.
How to Get a Copy of the Police Report
Police officers are required to file police reports about car accidents both with their local law enforcement office and with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). You can reach out to either agency to request a copy. Because the report may not be filed immediately after the accident, it’s best to wait a few days and contact the office ahead of time to see if it’s ready. Depending on the severity of the accident and the police officer’s workload or backlog of reports, it can take days or even weeks for it to be available. You can visit the office in person, or in the case of TxDOT, you can request the report online for a fee.
You can also request that your insurance company share the report with you, as they’re likely to request it (and are legally entitled to do so). If you’ve hired an attorney, they’re also legally allowed to request a copy of the report on your behalf.
Are Police Reports About Car Accidents Private?
The answer is they’re somewhat private. Unlike criminal records, which are available to the public, car accident records are considered to have confidential information and are not available online in Texas.
That said, there are various people who legally have the right to receive the report:
- The drivers of all involved vehicles
- The insurance companies and/or attorneys representing anyone involved in the accident
- Family members of someone killed in a car accident
- Employers, parents, or legal guardians of anyone involved in the accident
- Government agencies and news media
Are Police Reports Admissible in Court?
Not always. In Texas, they’re often considered “hearsay” and are mostly inadmissible. The hearsay doctrine applies to statements made outside the courtroom which are subject to these concerns: accidental miscommunication, insincerity, or faulty memory or perception. In other words, if the police officer is not a trained car accident expert, they may not have the knowledge or capability of making an accurate designation of liability.
However, Texas judges have the ability the allow the report in as evidence if they believe the hearsay concept doesn’t apply. Then it’s up to the person who objects to the report used as evidence to prove that it doesn’t meet the standards of miscommunication, insincerity, or faulty memory or perception.
What Should I Do if I Was in a Car Accident?
The first thing you should do is seek medical attention, even if you initially feel fine. Some injuries may not have symptoms right away. Then call us 24/7 at 346-818-3311 to set up a free nationwide case review. We can help you sort through who might be liable for the accident and how to obtain evidence, including the police report. That report isn’t the only evidence we’ll look for. Eyewitnesses and homes or businesses that have security cameras are also good sources for exploring liability. If necessary, we can work with traffic accident experts who have extensive experience in re-creating accident scenes to help determine who’s responsible.
Something you should not do after a car accident that involves another driver: Talk to their insurance rep or attorney or sign any paperwork they send you. The rep or attorney is focused on protecting their client (and, in the case of the insurance company, focused on paying out as little as possible). They could try to lead you to say something that would either be used against you or to reduce their client’s liability. Refer any such calls to your attorney.
Finally, as difficult as this may seem, don’t discuss the accident with family, friends, or neighbors. They could be called as witnesses if your case goes to trial. It’s best if you discuss your case only with your attorney and your insurance company.