A police report is not needed to prove fault or liability in a car accident, but having one can make it easier. After a car accident, insurance companies often want to know who was at fault because it usually determines whose insurance is responsible for covering damages.
Police reports can provide helpful evidence of fault because they are an officer's official account of what happened. They can include detailed observations such as the length of skid marks or position of vehicles on the roadway.
Police reports can also include the officer's opinion of how the accident occurred, and whether a driver was issued a ticket at the accident scene. All of these details can be used by insurance companies when determining fault.
However, police officers don't come to all accident scenes, especially when accidents are minor and there are no injuries. In these cases, parties can use other evidence to show fault.
Fault has to be determined without a police report in many accident claims. Instead, insurance companies gather information and evidence from all parties and any available witnesses.
That's why motorists are wise to gather their own evidence after an accident by taking photos and/or video, and getting the contact information of the other drivers and witnesses, in addition to taking other steps to protect their claim.
Sometimes, the law assumes fault depending on the type of accident that occurred:
Rear-end accidents: These accidents are almost always the fault of the driver who ran into the back of another vehicle.
Left-turn collisions: These accidents are almost always the fault of the driver taking the left turn.
Motorists who are unsure if they are at fault or not should review their state's "Rules of the Road" — which can often be found on the local DMV's website, in the state's highway manual, or in FindLaw Codes — for the law that applies to the type of accident that occurred.
Laws regarding fault vary from state to state. Most states have "at-fault" laws, while a few others have "no-fault" laws. States also vary in the way they treat negligence, which is another word for fault. It's crucial to understand state law before fault can be assessed.
Meet with a local car accident attorney to learn more about fault, insurance claims, and your legal options.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.