Last updated: August 2022
A police report can be filed for many reasons — like after a car accident, a vehicle theft, or a break-in. But what makes police reports so important, and why do insurance companies ask for them when you file a claim? Learn about the important information that's recorded on a police report and how to get a copy when you're involved in an incident.
What is a police report?
Whether your car was broken into or totaled in a wreck — many unfortunate car-related incidents require the response of local law enforcement. When police officers respond to a car theft, crime, or crash, they usually conduct a cursory investigation into the causes, consequences, and outcomes of the incident. The responding officer’s observations and notes on this investigation are compiled to generate an official police report, which you may also know as a crash report or police accident report.
Even though the term “police report,” may sound intimidating, the document itself is usually just a piece of paper with an administrative-looking form like the ones you’d fill out at the DMV. The form has different fields that law enforcement officers fill out according to the circumstances surrounding your incident. It may also have the seal of your local police department stamped on the corner, along with a header containing the agency’s address and phone number.
What’s in a police report?
A police report contains details about the responding officers’ investigation on your car crash or theft, but which details make it SO important? Here’s the lowdown on what info police accident reports usually include:
- Date, time, and place where the incident happened
- Description of road conditions, lighting, and climate the day of the incident
- Description of the vehicles in the accident, including make, model, year, license plate numbers, and registration status
- Details of the incident, including the type of road or intersection where it happened, what kind of damage occurred, and if speeding, intoxication, or negligence are suspected
- A diagram of the incident highlighting road signage, stoplights, crosswalks, merge lanes and more
- Names and information of all injured parties, the extent of their injuries and whether or not they were taken to a local hospital
- Notes on property damage resulting from the incident
- Name, agency, and badge number of responding officers
Keep in mind that what your police accident report included may be different depending on when and where the incident happened. Additionally, if you were the victim of a car theft rather than a wreck, the resulting police report may contain different information like:
- Overview of the incident detailing whether the car was broken into and its contents taken or if the whole vehicle was taken
- Specifics about the vehicle, including the make, model, year, color, VIN, and license plate number
- Time and place where the vehicle was last seen
- Information about the owner such as name, address, and driver's license number
- Details about property damage, including whether the windshield was broken or any other markings were made during the course of a burglary
- Location of the car keys, including whether the keys were left in the ignition and accounting for any key copies
After you’ve been involved in an incident, make sure to relay any important details to the responding officer. Minor observations on the other driver’s behavior and the circumstances of the incident can have a major impact on the outcome of your claim (or court case).
Why do I need a police report to file a claim?
In many cases, you can file an insurance claim without a police accident report unless there is extensive damage you want to be compensated for, or if an incident or crime happens, such as if your car is stolen or if there is a hit and run. However, not having a report can make it harder for your insurance to define who was at fault and how much damage happened during the accident, which can slow down the payout process or decrease the payout amount!
For example, if you get hit by another car at an intersection, a police report may specify which driver ran a red light or sped through a stop sign, helping define who is at fault. If the other driver is at-fault according to the police report, you may receive a quicker insurance payout from their insurer or a bigger payout from yours (depending on your coverage situation). Without a police report, your insurance company has to determine fault based on hearsay and other evidence, which is unlikely to work to your advantage!
In the case of a car theft or break-in, a police report can help your insurance company calculate the monetary value of any items stolen. Without a police report, you may not even be able to prove that you were the victim of a vehicular theft or burglary — making it extra hard to get a payout out of that comprehensive insurance policy!
Do I get a copy of my car accident or theft police report?
Now that you know what’s included in a police report and why getting it is so important, you must be wondering, “How the heck do I get my own copy of a police report?” The good news is getting your hands on this document is easy and inexpensive.
The process varies from one police department to the other, but typically, you’ll have to follow these steps:
- Visit the responding law enforcement agency’s incident report database. You can find it easily by doing an internet search for “Police Reports (City/County) Police Department.”
- Find your crash or incident report in the database using your VIN, case number, your driver's license number, or the name of the parties involved in the incident.
- Once you’ve found your police report, you’ll have to pay a small administrative fee (usually less than $10) to access and download it.
- Save it to your computer and print a couple of copies for your records.
- Include a copy in your insurance claim.
Unlike court records and arrest reports, police reports are not considered public records, so you will usually be required to show proof of ID before accessing yours! Make sure to have your driver's license information or another form of legal identification ready when you try and get a copy of your incident’s police report.
Report to Direct Auto for great car insurance savings!
Usually, the circumstances leading up to getting a police report are no fun! Whether you’ve been in a car accident or had your car broken into, Direct Auto is here to help. Call, click or visit your local Direct Auto Insurance to find affordable insurance coverage that fits your needs.