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How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident

Written by Ankin Law Office

The process for getting a police report for a car accident in Chicago is relatively simple. A police report is an invaluable tool for injured victims and their car accident lawyers. The time following a car accident is crucial. As a result of the trauma and injuries victims suffer often required them to be transported to hospitals for emergency medical treatment. Victims are often unable to obtain information which is crucial for a car accident claim. Much of this information can be found in a police report.

How to Know if A Police Report Will Be Prepared

Not every automobile collision results in a police response or an investigation. However, Illinois State Law requires the driver of each vehicle to file a report with the police if a car crash resulted in a person suffering an injury or death. This is typical in a drunk driving accident. If the collision caused $1,500 or more in property damage, the drivers must report the collision even if they have insurance. If the collision caused $500 or more in property damage, the drivers of the vehicles must report the collision if either driver lacks insurance.

How to Get a Copy of a Police Report After a Car Accident

There are several methods by which car accident victims can obtain police reports from police departments. To obtain a police report, a victim must know which police department responded to the traffic accident. After a car accident, police officers typically provide motorists reports. The motorist report will identify the agency which responded to and investigated the collision.  

How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident by Mail

Car accident victims can obtain a police report by mail. The benefit of obtaining a police report by mail is that it is unredacted. The police report contains the names, contact information, and insurance information of all parties. When requesting a police report by mail, a victim must send a subpoena or a court order signed by a judge to the correct agency. A car accident victim must pay the agency a fee for a report. A check must be included with the request. In the request, a victim must also include the location of the collision, the names of the individuals involved in the collision, the date of the collision, and the accident report number. Finally, a victim must send a self-addressed stamped envelope with his or her request.

How to Get a Police Report Online

If the Illinois State Police responded to the collision, a car accident victim can obtain the police report online via the Illinois State Police website. If the motorist report does not identify the agency, a victim can contact the Illinois State Police Patrol Records Unit to verify if the State Police handled the traffic accident. A victim must utilize E-pay when requesting the report and must pay a service fee. Despite being requested electronically, police reports are not immediately provided. It takes approximately 10 business days for the Illinois State Police to process a request for a police report. If a car accident victim provides more information such as the location of the accident, the county in which the accident occurred, the date, the report number, and the name of the other driver, the processing time may be reduced. Unlike police reports obtained by mail, police reports obtained online are redacted.  

How to Get a Police Report for a Car Accident in Chicago

There are three methods by which a car accident victim can obtain a police report from the Chicago Police Department. A car accident victim can obtain a police report in person at the Central Police Headquarters. Police reports can also be obtained by mail. A victim must send a written request, along with a five-dollar check to the Chicago Police Department Records Inquiry and Customer Service Section. The check must be payable to the “Department of Revenue, City of Chicago”. Finally, a car accident victim can obtain a police report online. A car accident victim must provide the name of the other driver, the location of the collision, and the report number.

Similar to the Chicago City Police Department, there are two ways a car accident victim can obtain a police report from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. A victim can obtain a report by submitting a FOIA request through the Sheriff’s website. A victim can also make a request for a police report in person by traveling to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago.

What Does a Police Report Contain?

In Illinois, police reports contain several pieces of important information. A police report will specify the location, county, date, and time of the collision. Additionally, a police report contains the names, phone numbers, addresses, driver’s license information, and dates of birth for the drivers of all the vehicles involved in the collision. With regards to the vehicles, a police report will include each vehicle’s license plate information and insurance information. If a driver of a vehicle involved in the collision is not the owner, the police report will contain the name and contact information of the owner of the vehicle. A police report will also contain the names, and contact information of any independent witnesses.

In addition to the contact information of the drivers and witnesses, a police report will also contain a narrative of how the collision occurred. The narrative also contains information regarding the weather and lighting conditions of the area where the collision occurred. The narrative is prepared by the investigating officer and will include an opinion as to who caused the collision. The police report may also include a diagram of the accident and notes regarding property damage to the vehicles. The investigating officer will prepare the narrative after conducting an investigation and speaking with any person who witnessed the collision. The narrative may contain statements from the drivers and any witnesses to the collision. Police reports also note if any person suffered an injury or obtained medical treatment. Finally, a police report will include the investigating officer’s name, badge number, and contact information.

Why Is a Police Report Important?

A police report captures essential information regarding an automobile collision. Specifically, a police report offers an independent account of the sequence of the collision. It includes the investigating officer’s opinions regarding which driver caused the collision. Police reports are used by several parties to evaluate insurance claims.

If the driver and owner of a vehicle are different people, a police report provides assistance with identifying additional at fault parties. For example, if the at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle while in the course of his or her employment, the employer and driver can be sued. Typically, employers carry commercial insurance policies with large amounts of coverage. This means more compensation is available for injured car accident victims.

How Do Insurance Companies Use Police Reports?

When an insurance company learns of an accident, they set up a claim, and begin their own investigation. The investigation begins with the insurance company speaking with their driver. If a car accident victim is not represented by a personal injury attorney, the insurance company will try to obtain his or her statement. An insurance company may also speak with witnesses, and review photos of property damage. An insurance company will also look at a police report to evaluate whether their conclusion regarding how the collision occurred and which driver caused the collision, is the same or is different from the investigating officer’s. In sum, insurance companies use police reports when evaluating whether they will accept or deny a claim. Insurance companies also use police reports to determine if any legal defenses are available if their driver is sued. Even if a car accident victim bears some fault for the collision, under Illinois’s comparative negligence law, the victim can recover as long as he or she is not more than 50% at fault.  

How Can a Car Accident Victim Use Police Reports?

A police report contains information that a car accident lawyer needs to investigate a collision, and prepare it for settlement or litigation. Similar to an insurance company, a victim’s attorney needs to investigate the facts of a collision.  A police report makes this process more efficient. A police report allows a car accident lawyer to identify, and interview witnesses. A car accident attorney can use a police report, and its conclusions when negotiating with an insurance company. A police report provides an injury attorney additional leverage when negotiating the issues of fault, and the severity of the collision. If a case cannot be resolved via a settlement, the police report provides a resource that allows a car accident attorney to prepare a case for trial.

While a police report is not admissible at trial, the underlying information can be used in court. Witness statements contained in a police report are not admissible in court as they are considered hearsay. Because a police report contains the names, and contact information of the witness who provided the statement, a car accident victim’s attorney can subpoena the witness to appear at trial. The witness can then provide testimony of his or her recollection of the collision.  

Illinois law requires a plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e. 51%. Some car accident claims are denied by insurance companies because they determined that a plaintiff lacks sufficient evidence to meet his or her burden of proof. This is typical in a word vs. word case in which both drivers are claiming the other caused the collision. If a plaintiff’s attorney is able to produce an independent witness in court, the witness’s testimony may be crucial in helping a plaintiff meet his or her burden of proof.  

Finally, if there are no independent witnesses to a collision, a trial will boil down to the party that a judge or jury finds more credible. The information contained within a police report will assist a lawyer in preparing the victim’s testimony for trial. Preparation can result in the victim’s testimony being more credible, and believable.

Categories: Auto Accidents