Can I Still File a Lawsuit in California without a Police Report?

police reportSome people may underestimate the extent of their injuries or the seriousness of an accident and decide to not get the police involved in the matter. However, days after the collision the victim may realize he or she may need to pursue compensation from the at-fault party but has no police report to provide to the insurance company.

Although having a police report can help strengthen your case against the at-fault driver, you may not be required to provide one to the insurance company. You might be able to file a claim, and recover compensation, without a report.

Our experienced Sacramento auto accident lawyers are prepared to help you file a claim and gather evidence to help bolster your claim.

If you have questions about your legal options after a crash, call us today to schedule a free legal consultation.

Is a Police Report Legally Required?

In California, drivers who are involved in an accident resulting in injury or death are legally required to file a police report within 24 hours of the accident.

Accidents that involve injuries or property damage of more than $1,000 must also be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days.

Police reports are generally reported to the DMV, so if you have filed a police report, you may not have to file a second report with the DMV. However, double-check that the officer handling your accident case did his or her due diligence and reported the crash accordingly.

While you are required to file a police report after certain types of crashes, there are other times when it would be a good idea to file a report even though it may not be required:

  • The crash was a hit-and-run accident
  • The other driver refuses to exchange information
  • The other driver is aggressive, or you feel physically threatened
  • You think the other driver may be fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Can Not Having a Police Report Hurt My Claim?

Although having a police report is an important part of an accident claim, the insurance company cannot deny your claim just because there is no police report.

However, not having a police report when you file your claim can have a negative impact.

The insurance company may try to make some of the following arguments if you do not have a police report:

  • The collision never happened, so therefore they should not have to provide compensation.
  • You did not file a police report because your negligent actions also contributed to the accident, and you did not want to get ticketed.
  • You are not seriously injured because if you were, you would have called 9-1-1 to get treated for your injuries.
  • Your injuries were caused by some other incident, but you are trying to make it look like the car accident caused your injuries just you can try to get money.

Our attorneys are prepared to help counter these arguments from the insurance company.

Why is it Important to File a Police Report?

Although you are not legally required to file a police report after every accident, there are some benefits to doing so. A police report can help provide the following:

  • Documentation of the accident – A police report ensures there is documentation of the accident. This way, the insurance company cannot deny the crash occurred.
  • Preliminary evidence – The police officer who arrives at the scene of the accident should conduct a preliminary investigation to determine what caused the collision and who may be at fault. This information is documented on the police report, which can later be used as evidence to prove another party’s negligence resulted in the collision.
  • Contact information of those involved – The police report should have contact and insurance information from all parties involved. This makes it easier to contact the insurance company and file a claim. Without the police report, you may have to rely on the word of the driver involved in the crash. If he or she is not upfront about the information you may not be able to file a claim at all.
  • Witness information – If someone witnessed the collision and called 9-1-1 the caller’s information would be included on the report. Your attorney may be able to use that information to get into contact with the witness to see if he or she is willing to provide a statement about the crash or even testify if the case goes to trial.

Your Injuries May Be More Severe Than You Think

Some accident victims fail to file a police report because they never call 9-1-1. This often happens because the accident victim does not think his or her injuries are serious enough to warrant the call.

However, this can have its own drawbacks. Some injuries may take days or weeks to show symptoms. During the time you go about your life normally, your injuries may be getting worse. Not only can this jeopardize your claim, but it can severely impact your wellbeing.

Even if you do not feel like you were injured after the accident, it is a good idea to call emergency services. This can work to alert both police and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Once the police are alerted to the crash scene, they will ensure a report is filed.

What is the Process of Filing a Claim Without a Police Report?

If you did not call the police after your accident and still need to file a claim, you can still proceed as you would with any other claim.

Be sure to exchange required information, including insurance, with the other driver or drivers involved in the accident. Do not accept any cash payment, or promise of payment, from another driver after a crash. If the accident is not your fault, file your claim with his or her insurance company.

Make sure to note the following information:

  • License plate number of the at-fault driver
  • Description of at-fault driver’s car (make, model, color)

It may also be a good idea to file an accident report with the department of motor vehicles. This shows you are trying to document the crash. The insurance company may still try to dismiss your claim.

One thing to keep in mind when filing a claim without a police report is that you will need a lot more evidence to prove your case. This means you should:

  • Take photos of the accident scene
  • Get to a doctor right away
  • Get contact information from potential witnesses

Your attorney may also be able to get access to:

  • Involved vehicles’ black box information
  • Traffic camera/surveillance video footage
  • Dashcam footage

Getting an accident reconstruction expert to help prove how the collision occurred may also be beneficial, even if he or she would need to work off your account of the accident.

The important thing is to contact an attorney right away. He or she may be able to visit the scene and take pictures. Evidence can get damaged or lost quickly, but an experienced attorney will know how to protect important evidence.

What is the Time limit for Filing a Claim Without a Police Report?

In California, accident victims have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, it would be in your best interest to do so as soon as possible after an accident.

If you do not have a police report, the time limit is still two years. If you retroactively file a police report, you must still provide the date of the accident. Not the date when you are filing the police report.

Waiting too long after an accident to file a report increases the chances of reporting the wrong date. This could impact the time limit for pursuing compensation.

Let Us Help You File Your Claim

Your best chance at a favorable outcome to your accident claim is by having evidence that proves another driver is responsible for an accident that caused your injuries.

Our attorneys are prepared to help you prove another driver’s negligence, even if you did not file a police report.

Learn how. Call today at (916) 777-7777