According to North Carolina law, if you are in a car accident where a victim has been injured and/or there has been significant property damage, you are required to report the accident to police. The problem is that it is often hard to estimate damages at the time of the accident and even more importantly, there are many car crash injuries where signs of injuries can be delayed. Serious injuries, such as a brain, back, or internal injuries, often take hours, sometimes days, before the victim will begin showing symptoms. This is why anyone who has been in a crash should contact local law enforcement to report the incident, even if it appears to just be a minor fender bender.
Filing a Car Crash Claim
If the crash you were involved in was caused by the other driver’s negligence, having a police report when you file your claim with their insurance company can be a strong piece of evidence to bolster your claim and help ensure a fair and just settlement offer. The police report will affirm that the accident caused your injury and damage to your vehicle.
When you call the police and an officer arrives, the first thing the will do is secure the scene to help ensure the safety of those involved in the crash and other motorists and pedestrians near the site, as well as help secure and preserve evidence from the crash site.
The officer will then use the training and experience they have to investigate the crash site to determine who is at fault and if any laws were broken that contributed to the accident. The report will include the following information:
- Contact information for the other driver, including their insurance information. The police report will also include contact information of passengers in the other vehicle, as well as any witnesses who provided the officer with information about what they saw.
- Details of the crash, including the date, time, and location. The officer will also include the type and description of the vehicles involved in the crash. The report will include a summary of how the accident happened, including weather and road conditions at the time of the crash. The officer will also state which driver was at fault, based on North Carolina law.
- Statements of the drivers to the officer will also be included in the accident report. A written summary of what each driver claims led up to the crash can also be helpful to prove your case if the other driver makes any incriminating statements or changes their story later on.
- The officer will also add any witness statements to the report. These eyewitnesses statements also provide solid evidence if the other driver is trying to deny their liability for the crash.
- Injuries that anyone involved in the accident suffered will be described in the report, as well as if emergency responders were called to the scene and provided treatment.
- The report should also include a description of the damage done to the vehicles, as well as any property at the accident scene. Many officers will include a drawing so there is a visual description of the scene, as well.
- If any traffic violation citations were issued to the other driver, such as running a red light, this will also be included in the report and can be used as evidence in the case against the other driver. This also holds true for any arrests. For example, if the other driver was arrested at the scene for drunk driving, this information can be used against the driver in the accident claim, even if the charges are dropped or they are found not guilty.
Using a Police Report to Win Your Case
When a car accident claim is filed with the other driver’s insurance company, their insurance adjuster will also obtain a copy of the police report as they are conducting their own investigation into what caused the accident. In many cases, if the officer who prepared the report provides enough detail to make it almost impossible for the other driver to deny liability, the insurance adjuster may be more hesitant to try to deny or dispute the accident.
Both the insurance adjuster and your own car accident attorney can use the information from the report to help their investigation. For example, using the witness contact information to speak with witnesses about what they saw. The more information that can be used as evidence against the other driver, the more likely it is the insurance company will be willing to negotiate a fair settlement.
And unlike many other states that do not allow police reports to be used as evidence in car accident lawsuit trials because these reports are considered “hearsay,” North Carolina law does allow car accident police reports to be used as evidence. In fact, the law requires that all police officers file their accident report within 24 hours of the accident. The law specifically states that the report, “may be used in any manner as evidence, or for any other purpose, in any trial, civil or criminal, as permitted under the rules of evidence.”
Call Our Office Today
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to speak with one of our North Carolina car accident attorneys and find out what legal recourse you may have.