When someone has been injured in a car accident in New York City, they may think that it is enough to exchange contact details and insurance information with the other people involved in the accident. While that is a valuable thing to do (and read all the way through to learn why that’s the only communication you should have with others involved in the crash), It is also essential to have a police report filed. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Included in a Police Report for an Accident?
A police report regarding an accident will include the following:
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Vehicle descriptions, including license plate numbers and registration
- Road conditions at the scene
- Diagram of the accident, including placement of traffic lights or stop signs, any other road signs, merge lanes, and other relevant details
- Details of damages to property (including not just the vehicles but any other nearby property that appears to be damaged from the accident) and personal injuries of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, or other people in proximity to the accident
- The police officer’s name, badge number, and agency
- Observations of the drivers’ behavior and relevant physical or mental state (as in, do they appear intoxicated, in shock, etc.)
- Any eyewitness testimony about potential causes (one driver ran a red light, etc.)
Why is the Police Report Important When I’m Filing for Damages?
While the report may not necessarily point to who exactly was at fault, the level of detail about the scene of the accident can assist your personal injury attorney and, potentially, accident scene experts (such as accident site reconstruction experts) in fully developing a theory as to who as at fault or how much fault each party had. It can be important when negotiating a settlement or presenting proof at trial or a hearing.
Our attorneys have gone to court and achieved success in proving their case based upon the information contained in the police accident report. Knowing how to obtain and properly utilize a police accident report in a lawsuit is a key reason to have an experienced attorney on your side.
How Do I Get a Police Report for the Accident I Was in?
At the scene of the accident involving injuries or more than $1,000 in property damage, call 911 and tell the operator there’s been an accident (and if there are apparent injuries, mention that too).
A police officer will be dispatched to the scene. The officer will prepare a report including the statements of each driver and any observations the officer made at the scene.
Once law enforcement has filed the report, you can request a copy of it within 30 days of the date of the accident. You can go online to the Collision Report Retrieval Portal and fill out a form to request the report. It can take up to seven business days for the police report to be online.
Once 30 days have passed, requests can be made to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
What Is New York’s Comparative Negligence Law?
Every state in the U.S. handles comparative negligence differently, based on three types of negligence. Where the accident occurs is where the laws of comparative negligence come into effect and will affect the outcome of the case.
Here are three types and how they’re handled across the country.
- Contributory negligence. Few states use this. This doctrine holds that if the injured person is even the slightest amount at fault for the accident, even just 1%, they cannot receive damages.
- Modified comparative negligence. The majority of U.S. states use this. It finds that if the injured person is either 50% or 51% at fault (the percentage varies by state), then they can’t receive damages. But if they’re 40% at fault, they can receive damages, but the amount will be reduced by 40%. If they’re awarded $10,000, they’ll receive $6,000 instead.
- Pure comparative negligence. This is essentially the opposite of contributory negligence in that even if the injured person is 99% at fault for the accident, they can still receive 1% of any damages awarded.
New York State is a pure comparative state. That’s why building as strong a case as possible is crucial because each side is at risk of being assessed for liability.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured in a Car Accident in New York?
After exchanging contact information and insurance details with anyone else in the accident, it is vital that you visit a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. There are injuries that can result from accidents, including serious ones, that don’t show symptoms immediately. If untreated, they can worsen and even become life-threatening.
Then call Greenspan & Greenspan Injury Lawyers at 914-946-2500 for a free initial consultation with one of our White Plains, NY, car accident attorneys. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable accident attorneys can help determine the best approach for your case to ensure you don’t lose out on damages you should be eligible for.
Equally important to what you should do is what you shouldn’t: Do not speak with (or exchange texts or emails with) the other driver’s insurance representative or attorney. Their primary goal is to attribute as much blame for the accident to you as possible in order to avoid paying out for their client. They may also try to push you to accept a much lower settlement than you’re entitled to. If you receive calls, emails, or letters, don’t respond to them. Instead, forward them to your attorney.