If I am in a car accident in Houston, should I get a police report?

Many people wonder if they have to or should get a police report made when they are involved in an accident.  The answer to the question “Should I get a police report if I am in an accident?” is usually yes.  The purpose of a police accident report (sometimes referred to as a crash report) is to document who was involve, record important information and to document the officer’s investigation and conclusions as to who (if anyone) was at fault. In no particular order, a police accident report will include the following information:

* names of the drivers involved, driver’s addresses, driver’s license numbers, date of birth, driver’s license status (valid, invalid, etcetera), any restrictions (e.g. corrective lenses)
* year, make, model, color, license plate, VIN of the vehicles involved
* street(s) where the accident happened and applicable speed limits
* insurance company for each driver
* the road conditions, weather conditions, lighting
* witness information (if any)
* location and severity of the damage to the vehicles, where the vehicle were towed and the towing company
* who was injured and the apparent severity of their injuries
* statements of the drivers and witnesses
* not-to-scale diagram of the scene of the collision
* the officer’s opinion on who was at fault
* who was issued a citation, and what they were cited for
* the officer’s patrol area, badge number and name

The list above is not exhaustive, there is other information within a police report that is not included here.  Police officers are trained to investigate accidents and gather information that is important, so having a police officer make a report for your accident saves you the worry of trying to get all the necessary information yourself. Police officers should also investigate the accident in a neutral way, not favoring one side over the other, and witnesses may feel more comfortable telling the neutral police officer what they saw rather than telling their story to the drivers involved.

Police officers in Texas now have the ability to verify at an accident scene whether a particular vehicle has valid liability insurance. Having a police report can also speed up the claims process and give the other driver’s insurance company information they need to make a liability decision and decide whether they will pay a claim.

While people often want to be nice to the other driver and feel hesitant to get the police involved, particularly when the other driver is at the scene saying they are at fault, unfortunately sometime people who have caused an accident get home, have a chance to cool off and start rethinking whether they were really at fault. If there are no witnesses and no police report, you may be faced with a swearing match situation (your word against the other driver) which can get messy.

Some clients have told us in the past then when they called the police to request a report be made, they were told that if the vehicles can be moved from the roadway the drivers should swap information and go on their way.  You may need to politely push to have an officer sent to make a report, and it may mean you have to wait. Section 550.062 of the Texas Transportation Code says that an officer who investigates an accident resulting in injury to or death of a person or damage to property to the apparent extent of $1,000 or more must make a report and file that report with their department within 10-days of the date of the accident.

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