A traffic accident can mean costly repairs, medical bills, and monumental hassles with insurance companies, lawyers and law enforcement. A useful step in the aftermath of a road incident is the purchase of an accident report from the police or sheriff's department that carried out the investigation. These are public records that in most cases are available for a nominal fee. The procedure is well known to anyone who regularly deals with car accidents, insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits. If you have engaged an attorney to represent you in the case, she'll make a request for her own copy of the crash report.
Locate the Appropriate Agency
Determine the investigating agency. This could be the state highway patrol, the local police department or the county sheriff's department. If you're on the scene, note the law enforcement agency that is handling the accident as well as the badge numbers of the investigating officers, who should be willing to part with their business cards on request. If you don't have this information, call around to the various agencies with the time, date and location of the accident. They should be able to check records and tell you if they handled it. Your state may also have an online database with this information.
Filing the Record Request
Follow the procedure for requesting a copy of the accident report. You might have to fill out a short form, give your name and explain why you're making the request. For example, the Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report, Form CR-3, is available through the Texas Department of Transportation. This particular request can be done online and the record returned immediately. As of publication, the Texas DOT charges $6 for a regular copy and $8 for a certified copy, which is obtained through the mail. Certified copies are valid for certain legal proceedings and preferable for personal injury claims and insurance forms.
Consult your attorney or insurance company if you're having trouble tracking down a crash report through public agencies. The crash report should be available to you free of charge from either source. Several commercial websites exist that can obtain public crash reports from law enforcement agents all over the country, for a fee. Don't contact the other driver's insurance company. It is your legal adversary and has no obligation to assist you. It's essential in any case to contact your own carrier. Failure to report an accident can result in a denial of any claims.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.