Car accidents, in addition to causing injuries and trauma, cause an overwhelming amount of paperwork. It’s important to save and keep track of all these documents for your records and potential legal case. One of the most important documents you’ll need after your accident is the accident report created by the police officer who responds to the accident scene.
If you’re reading this, we hope this is your first and only car accident – and if it is, you’re likely wondering how to get this report and what information it contains. Your accident report is crucial to your car accident case, so it’s important you secure a copy as soon as possible after your crash.
What is an accident report?
Here in North Dakota, you’re required to call law enforcement after a car accident when someone is killed, injured, or there is property damage in excess of $4,000. If you are in a crash in Minot, for example, the event may be investigated by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Ward County Sheriff’s Department, or the Minot Police Department.
Whichever investigating agency responds must fill out an accident report on the scene and file it with the state. This report contains important details about the accident, including witness and vehicle information, the address of the scene of the accident, and other pertinent data. You can obtain a copy of the report a few days after the incident.
An accident report can include:
- The type of crash (fatal or non-fatal)
- Location of the crash
- Time and date of the crash
- Number of vehicles and/or pedestrians involved
- Information about each vehicle, its driver, and any passengers
- Details about the roadway or intersection where the accident happened
- Notes about the scene of the accident (traffic signals, vegetation, etc.)
- Results of any alcohol or drug tests
- Brief description of how the accident occurred
- Diagram of the accident and accident scene
The report will also contain any other relevant details and information. When police arrive on the scene, they’ll typically take notes on a worksheet and complete the report back at the station. Your report should be available in a few days. Police will speak to everyone on the scene. Remember to answer in factual statements only – don’t offer any admission of fault, only what happened and what you saw.
How do I get a copy of my car accident report?
After a car accident, you can purchase a copy of your traffic report online through the North Dakota Department of Transportation (ND DOT) for a seven dollar fee. Per the ND DOT:
North Dakota Century Code 39-08-09 defines a reportable crash as a motor vehicle traffic crash which results in injury, fatality, or at least $4,000 in total property damage. Crashes involving undomesticated animals where there was no injury or fatality, regardless of the property damage amount, are not reportable.
To access your report, you’ll need to provide your last name, the date of the accident, and the name of the county in which the accident occurred. If you don’t have this information, contact the police that investigated the crash. Our attorneys can also help if the details on your police report are incorrect.
Why do I need a police report?
Even when it seems obvious the other driver was at fault for your accident and injuries, you should always obtain a copy of the accident report – and should always call the police to the scene of an accident. Although you can certainly file a claim for your injuries without a report, the lack of an accident report could make a bit more difficult to secure the compensation you need for your losses. For example:
- The insurance company could dispute the accident ever even happened. Without the proof of a police report, the insurer may claim your injuries and vehicle damage were not from the traffic accident.
- The insurance company can claim you don’t have enough evidence to claim damages. They may not dispute that the accident happened, but without a police report they may dispute that the at-fault driver caused the collision.
However, it’s also extremely important to remember that an insurance adjuster is not an expert in reading and translating police reports, either. Police reports don’t always assign fault. The police officer may note in an accident report the crash was caused by weather, road conditions, or some other event. This doesn’t mean, though, that the traffic report is useless.
Our attorneys can utilize other evidence to either supplement or contradict the police report, depending on the circumstances of your accident. We can call upon our network of expert witnesses to demonstrate how the other driver was at fault for the accident and your injuries, as well as show how you’ll suffer from these injuries for months, years, or a lifetime.
This is why it just makes sense to work with an experienced Minot injury attorney after a serious car accident. At Larson Law Firm, P.C., we can secure a timely copy of your accident report, ensure it’s error-free, and take over all correspondence with the insurance company. We can help build a strong case against the at-fault driver and demonstrate you are entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses.
Please feel free to call us at 701-484-HURT or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation. Our team serves clients in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, and we fight on behalf of accident victims throughout North Dakota. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson