Whenever an auto accident occurs in Pennsylvania, accident victims usually call the police to the scene. They will assist with emergency needs, investigate the crash, issue citations for any violations, and fill out a report of the incident. It is important to request a copy of police report and ensure that it is accurate because you will need it when you file a lawsuit or claim.
Am I required to report car accidents in Pennsylvania?
Yes, in most cases, you are required to report crashes that occurred in Pennsylvania. Specifically, you are legally required to report it if the crash involved injuries, death, or major property damage.
After you, the other party, or a bystander calls 9-1-1 and notifies dispatch about the accident, Section 3751 of Title 75, Pennsylvania’s Consolidated
Statutes requires the appropriate police agency to investigate if the above qualifications apply. The agency then must fill out a specific six-page form and submit it to the Department of Transportation (DOT) within 15 days.
If, for some reason, you or the other driver did not call police to the scene to investigate, by law, you must report it to the DOT within five days. Failure to do so could result in driver’s license suspension.
How do I request a copy of the police report for my car accident?
In some cases, the police will provide you with a report at the scene of the accident. If they did not, or if you misplaced the report, you can request a copy of it from the Pennsylvania State Police. You must wait at least 15 days from the date of the crash to request the report.
To get a copy of your report:
- Visit the Pennsylvania State Police Department website.
- Download and print a copy of Form SP 7-0015, Application to Obtain a Copy of a Police Report.
- Fill out the simple, one-page application, which asks for basic info about you, the crash, and why you are requesting the report.
- Send the application and the $22 processing fee to the Pennsylvania State Police, Attn: Crash Reports Unit, 1800 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA, 17110.
In some districts, you may be able to request a copy of your report in person at your local police department. You might want to call the appropriate station to inquire about its policies and fees for obtaining copies of crash reports.
What if I find a mistake on the report?
Police reports are kept on file and can be freely viewed by certain persons and agencies, including your insurance company, the federal government, the military, and your and other involved parties’ attorneys. The contents of the report have the potential to harm you – legally, speaking – particularly if the records are inaccurate.
Police officers who investigate Pennsylvania auto accidents generally do their best to create fair and accurate reports. The reality, however, is that accident reports can contain mistakes and oversights. If you notice an inaccuracy on your report that you think may affect your case, you need to take steps to correct it.
One way to go about this is to call the officer directly to discuss that matter. The report will mention the officer’s name, and you can call him/her directly at the station. We actually recommend against this method, though. Police officers oftentimes are so burdened with duties that they are not able to respond to requests to correct accident reports. Investigating police officers might also get annoyed at your requests, which could wind up further harming your case.
A better route to take to correct mistakes on police reports is to have your attorney handle the request. Accident attorneys know how to tactfully communicate with police officers and resolve the matter efficiently.
Why is it so important to keep a copy of the police report?
Police reports contain a lot of information that will be very instrumental when filing an injury claim or lawsuit. The report will include key details about the incident such as the following.
- Each party’s contact and vehicle info
- Statements from each party
- Eyewitness information
- Any issued citations
- The officer’s play-by-play of the accident (which she formulates after her investigation)
Insurance companies use police reports to help them decide how to proceed with a claim. Because Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault accident state, either party’s insurance company could potentially be responsible for covering damages, depending on the circumstances. If the accident was the other party’s fault and you have full tort insurance or if your injuries were serious, you will have the option of filing a claim against the other driver for the full extent of your damages. The contents of a police report could help establish fault.
For example, if officers issued the other driver a citation for speeding, noted on the report, this alone could help demonstrate negligence and liability. If the citation was coupled with a witness’s statement that he observed the vehicle going at a high rate of speed and losing control – which will also be in the report – this could make your case stronger.
What do I do with the police report once I have it?
The insurance company may request a copy of the report, and you can certainly share it with them if you so choose. Also, keep a copy of the report at home in a safe location until your case is completely resolved.
Run your case by an accident attorney to review your legal options and ensure you are maximizing and exhausting all your potential sources for compensation. Share a copy of the report with your lawyer, who can use the report to support your claim and help you address any inaccuracies.
If you are in need of a car accident attorney in Pennsylvania, consider Cordisco & Saile as your choice firm. You are welcomed to contact us at 215-642-2335 and request a free, no-obligation consultation.