Very few people go through life without being involved in some sort of accident. Sometimes these incidents are minor and you walk away with just a passing adrenaline rush. In other cases, the accident involves serious injury or damage to property. Depending on the type of accident and rules of your state, you might be required to file an accident report that provides details about the event and how it unfolded.
Accident Report Overview
Accident reports contain information related to an event supplied by those involved or other witnesses, and may be required for a variety of purposes. They are often used by insurance companies to determine whether to approve or deny coverage, as evidence by police or individuals involved in a lawsuit to determine whether a law was broken, or to maintain a record by a certain state agency charged with addressing safety matters, like the Department of Motor Vehicles or state Department of Health.
One of the most common reasons you may be required to file an accident report is when you are involved in a motor vehicle collision. This is because the memory of those involved can fade considerably over time. In some states, it is the responsibility of a law enforcement officer to interview you and draft and file the report. If your state requires you to complete the report, many Department of Motor Vehicle websites supply fill-in-the-blank forms for your convenience. These forms typically require you to supply information about the vehicles involved -- make, model and plate number -- and ask for a diagram of the collision or where the damage occurred on the cars. Typically, you are also asked to provide a narrative of how the event unfolded. Once complete, it is usually returned to the DMV and your insurance company may also request a copy. The time limit for submitting the document can vary depending on the state. For instance, in New York, you have 10 days to file the report; in Iowa, the period is 72 hours.
Accident reports also come up in the workers' compensation context. Workers' compensation statutes are in place to provide benefits to those who are injured on the job; the program is funded by employers through insurance premiums. If an employee is injured - for example, when an employee falls off a ladder and breaks his arm - state law can vary on how long an employer has to complete the accident report, which may depend on the severity of the injury. For example, in Illinois, the report must be submitted no later than two working days after the accident if it resulted in death. However, this period extends to one month if the injury was not fatal. In the report, you will need to include basic information about the employee, type of injury and where it was sustained, and names and contact information of any witnesses. You may also be required to supplement your report with an additional form if the injury turns out to be permanent.
Healthcare Accident Reports
You may also be required to submit an accident report, sometimes referred to as an incident report, related to health services. These reports help state licensing committees make sure that standards are being met and improve the quality of healthcare. Examples of accidents that may require a report include a patient being injured by a fall at a hospital or staff member exposing a patient to a dangerous or harmful chemical. Although the reporting procedure can vary from state to state and between different types of facilities, common information supplied includes the location of the accident, name of the patient, staff members involved, and description of the facts surrounding the accident. Your state may have a deadline for when the report must be submitted to the licensing board. For example, in South Carolina, the report must be submitted within 10 days if it resulted in serious injury -- such as bone fractures or burns -- or death. If the injury was not serious, the report is instead kept on file at the facility.
Read More: How to Get Online Accident Reports
Property Accident Reports
If someone is hurt on your property or your property is damaged, you may be required to complete an incident report and return it to the liability insurer for your business premises or company providing you with homeowners insurance. The insurance company often supplies the appropriate form for you to use, and you will most likely be asked to describe the accident, specify where it happened and indicate the nature of the damage or injury.
Accidents on Government Property
You may also need to fill out an incident report, sometimes referred to as a Notice of Claim, if you are injured on state or federal government property, such as if you tripped and fell on the courthouse steps or at the post office. These notices typically must include your name and address, nature of your injury and description of how the accident occurred. Once complete, the notice must be returned to the appropriate government agency. States can vary on the time you have to submit the notice. In New York, for example, the period is 90 days after the date of injury. In Maine, this period is 180 days. If your injury occurred on federal property, the notice must be filed within two years.
- Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction: Traffic Crash Reports & Overlay Forms
- Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission: Forms
- South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control: Memorandum - Accidents/Incidents That Must Be Reported to Health Licensing
- Briggs & Wholey: Am I in Time? Did I Wait Too Long to File a Lawsuit?
- Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction: Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Accident Report Form
- Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction: Connecticut Uniform Police Accident Report Form
- Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission: Workers Compensation – First Report of Injury or Illness
- New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: Report of Motor Vehicle Accident
- Markel Insurance Company, Inc.: Incident Report Form
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."