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What You Need to File A Police Report After A Car Accident

Steven Matz
January 24, 2023 | Car Accident

Key Takeaways

  • In Michigan, you must file a police report if damage exceeds $1,000, you hit a parked vehicle, the property damaged was unattended or there was bodily injury.
  • You should report a car accident within 24 hours of when the accident occurred.
  • To file a police report, you should contact the police directly after an accident by calling 911.
  • Filing a police report is critical in validating an accident claim and speeds up the insurance claim process.
  • If you were injured in a car accident, but the claim says you were not, it’s important to consult with a personal injury attorney to support your injury claim.

If you are in a serious auto accident in Michigan, you are required under Michigan law to file a police report if the car crash results in bodily injury or property damage worth at least $1,000. When you fail to file a traffic crash report with the police, you may lose the opportunity to seek personal injury compensation for the motor vehicle accident.

Knowing when and where to file a police report is critical in your car accident claim. If you have been in a serious car accident and need help pursuing compensation, the Michigan personal injury lawyers at Matz Injury Law may be able to help.

Police officer talking to a man sitting down next to his car

When Does an Accident Need to Be Reported?

The state of Michigan is very clear on the circumstances that require motorists to file a police report after a car crash. These include excessive damage, causing damage to an unattended vehicle or other property, or cases of death or bodily injury.

Damage Exceeds $1,000

Any time you are involved in an accident where damage to the vehicle exceeds $1,000, you are required to file a police report. This can even be a so-called fender bender. This benchmark also applies to the total damage, not just to your vehicle. Car repairs are quite expensive, so even if you are not certain about the costs of the total damage, you should probably file a police report just to be on the safe side.

You Hit a Parked Car

If you hit a parked car, especially one that is unattended, you are required to call the police and file a report. Failing to do so results in a hit-and-run accident, which is illegal not just in Michigan but in almost every state. It may carry other penalties beyond failure to collect compensation from your insurance company.

There Is Damage to Unattended Property

Besides parked vehicles, any damage to unattended property is cause for filing a police report in Michigan. If you hit a telephone pole, someone’s mailbox, or even tear up their yard, you should file a police report. Again, failing to do so means you are not taking responsibility and can be considered a hit-and-run.

Bodily Injury

Finally, if the accident involves any sort of personal injury, you must file an accident report. It is always important to get medical attention after any accident to be sure you do not have an injury that has not yet shown symptoms. When you call first responders to the scene of the accident, this can be an opportunity to file your report.

How Long do You Have to File a Police Report After a Car Accident?

When you are in an accident that damages property to the extent of $1,000 or more, injures or kills any person, or damages unattended property, you must immediately report the accident. You can do this by calling 911 at the scene or by visiting the local police station. While the law does not specifically define “immediately,” it is generally best to report the accident within 24 hours.

How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident to an Insurance Company?

In fact, when it comes to your car insurance claim, your car insurance company’s claims process may require you to file a report within 24 hours. Many insurance companies have this stipulation in auto insurance policies. This means that if you fail to file a police report, you could be denied the opportunity to seek benefits under your insurance policy, regardless of whether you are the at-fault driver.

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How to File a Police Report When You Are in a Michigan Car Accident

A man and a woman standing outside their vehicles after an auto accident

Filing a police report is a simple matter of calling 911 at the time of the accident. A police officer from the local police department or Michigan State Police will arrive on the scene, depending on the jurisdiction where you had the accident. If you are in a situation where the police cannot get to the accident scene, you can go to your local police station to file a police report yourself.

It is usually best when drafting your accident report to stick to the facts of what happened and not editorialize. The time will come to tell your side of the story; the accident report is simply your reporting of the details of the accident.

What Happens if I Do Not Report a Car Accident to the Police?

While the law requires you to file a police report under certain circumstances, not doing so is not a punishable offense as long as you exchange information with anyone else involved in the accident. This includes contact information, the driver’s insurance, and other relevant information related to the crash.

If, however, you fail to file a police report and leave the scene of an accident without exchanging information with the other driver or involved parties, you could be subject to a felony charge. Hit-and-run accidents can carry penalties of fines up to $10,000, jail sentences of up to 15 years, or both, depending on how serious the accident is. Therefore, never leave the scene of an accident before filing a police report or exchanging information with the other driver.

If you have been in an accident and need help seeking compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages, the car accident lawyers at Matz Injury Law are here to help. Contact our law firm today at 866-226-6833 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

What Is Included in a Police Car Accident Report?

The draft of your accident report will include detailed information about the crash, including a description of what happened, the names and insurance information of all passengers in both cars, the driver’s license information for all involved drivers, the details of any damages and injuries, a diagram of the scene, and photos and videos of the damage and any witness statements.

This information is not admissible as evidence in court but can be an important touchstone in negotiations and help you remember the details as your injury claim moves forward. It can also become an important resource for your car accident attorney as they work to build a case for you.

Do I Need a Police Report to Get No-Fault Benefits?

Michigan is a no-fault state for auto accidents. This does not, however, mean that there is not an at-fault driver in a car accident. What it means is that all drivers are required to carry no-fault insurance on their auto insurance policy. No-fault insurance is intended to allow you to start the insurance claim for your car accident right away by filing with your own insurance company.

In Michigan, the majority of insurers also require that you have a police report on file to collect no-fault benefits. Most insurance adjusters will want a copy of the police report, and if they discover that you did not file one, they may deny you the right to coverage.

What Are the Benefits of Filing a Car Accident Police Report?

Besides being a legal requirement, filing a car accident police report carries many other benefits. It lets you check for errors in the narrative and eases the process of seeking compensation. It also serves as an important basis to remember the details as you retell your story several times over the ensuing months.

You Can Examine It for Errors

Crash reports are often inaccurate or contain mistakes, even including typos that can be costly as you try to pursue your accident case. It is important to get a copy of the accident report so you can review it and correct any errors. Your car accident attorney can help you with this process if you need it.

It Contains Important Details for the Case

Your legal claim for compensation will need to cover your doctor’s bills, medication, medical procedures, lost wages, potential loss of future compensation, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and possibly many other damages. The case will begin with your own insurance company, but over the ensuing months, you will need to retell the story to several parties.

It is important that you remember the details as clearly as possible. Any mistake could be used against you by adjusters looking for any reason to deny your claim. Your police report can remain an important touchstone for you to remember the details of what happened. It can also be important to your personal injury lawyers, who will work with you to build a case that you deserve full and fair compensation.

Speed Up the Process of Collecting Compensation

Having a copy of the police report allows your attorney to comply with the notice provisions that may be included in your insurance policy. It allows the attorney to file your lawsuit quickly and comply with all contract filing requirements. Filine a lawsuit quickly is your best option when dealing with complex situations such as an accident with an uninsured vehicle. The report can provide details that help demonstrate you meet the requirements for your no-fault coverage, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist policies. The police report, in the end, can be a vital resource from the date of the accident. Having all this information in one place can help to speed up your claim.

How Do I Obtain a Copy of My Car Accident Police Report?

Police officer filling out an accident report

Obtaining a copy of your car accident police report is easy. You just need to visit the Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Purchasing System website. You will need to have the date of the crash and information about one of the drivers involved to make the purchase. You may also need a case or incident number.

If you do not have all of this information, the purchasing system website can direct you to instructions to request a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. After you enter this information, you will be directed to pay with a major credit card and will then be able to download the report and your receipt directly from the website. If you have any problems, your Michigan car accident lawyer will be able to help you with the process.

What To Do If You Were Injured In Auto Accident But Police Report Says You Were Not?

First, find the box on the report with your name on it (the vehicle that was at fault is supposed to be the first one listed, but sometimes this is reversed).

Understanding the Injury Report in a Police Report

Right next to your name is a box called “Injury.”  There will be one of these letters in the box: O, A, B, C or K.

  • “O” means that the officer didn’t see any signs that you were hurt at the scene, and you didn’t say anything about being hurt, when you were asked.
  • “C” means you told the officer you felt pain, but the officer didn’t see any visible signs of injury or impairment to you.
  • “B” means you were complaining of pain, and that it was obvious you were hurt in a way that probably required attention, but nothing seemed urgent.
  • “A” means you were seriously hurt and needed immediate attention, and probably an ambulance away from the scene.
  • “K” means that the person was killed, dying either at the scene or from the injuries later.

Many times over the years, we have had cases where our client, who didn’t cause the accident, was listed as “O” or “C” by the officer, but turned out to have very serious injuries.  We certainly understand that usually the police officers are not doctors, and while they have medical response training, there are many aspects to a crash, such as securing the scene from other accidents, preserving evidence, and filling out the report that take their time and attention.  It is possible that even the best-trained and most sincere investigator can misinterpret information in the heat of the moment.

It is also a fact that people are usually very upset and emotional when they get in a crash, especially if the other driver caused it, and the excitement (some people call it an “adrenaline rush”) can mask the fact that the person is seriously hurt…at least for a few hours, by which time the police are gone, the cars have been towed away, and someone has come to take you home.  Once the “rush” wears off, you might feel quite a bit worse that you did a few minutes after the crash, when you told the officer: “I’m okay-just let me get out of here!”

We also know from our years of experience with auto injury cases that many injuries take a while to develop.  Time and again, we are called by people who have significant head, neck and back injuries who said they felt fine until a day or two after the accident, but then started having pains that got worse and worse.  Many of these patients end up needing medical tests such as MRI or CT scan that can show injuries to parts of the body that x-rays don’t see very well.  Often, patients who walked away from the scene of a crash end up needing surgery to correct imbalances that gradually worsen weeks or even months after the initial trauma (injury).

So if you are concerned that your police report says you weren’t hurt, when it turns out that you have had or may need extensive medical testing and treatment, it would be wise to talk to an attorney who handles automobile negligence cases.  Your car insurance company, and the company for the driver who hit you, are certainly going to try to say that you must not have been hurt, because the officer at the scene wrote “O” or “C” for your injuries.  What’s bad about that is the fact that your insurance is not going to want to pay for treatment for care that it says you don’t need.  Also, your claim against the other driver for pain and suffering may be in trouble, because you have to have a “serious” injury in order to even qualify for a settlement for pain and suffering.

Want to Earn Everything You Deserve? A Police Report Is Key

If you are in a car accident in Michigan, it is always best practice to file a police report immediately at the scene of the crash, or at least within 24 hours of the accident. Do not leave the scene without filing a report or exchanging information with the other drivers.

After the report is filed, it is vital that you contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Matz Injury Law. We have decades of experience representing people all over Michigan, from Detroit to Grand Rapids and beyond. Call us today at 866-226-6833 or use our online contact form to request a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do you need to file a police report?

In Michigan, it is mandatory to file a police report if the damage is over $1,000, if you collide with a parked vehicle, if there is damage to unattended property, or if there is any bodily injury.

How quickly do you need to file a police report?

Reporting a car accident within 24 hours is essential for ensuring accurate documentation, complying with legal requirements, facilitating insurance claims, and providing timely medical or legal assistance. This prompt action is crucial for legal and insurance processes following an accident.

How do you file a police report?

After an accident, it’s important to promptly file a police report for documentation and legal purposes. To do this, contact the police directly by calling 911. This ensures that the incident is officially recorded and can be crucial for insurance claims and legal matters.

What if the police report says I was not injured in a car accident?

If you sustained injuries in a car accident but the claim states otherwise, it’s crucial to seek advice from a personal injury attorney. An attorney can help validate and advocate for your injury claim, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive the appropriate compensation.

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Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

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