How do I File an Accident Report?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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Accident reports are documents that are created, reported, and filed at the time that some type of accident takes place. While an accident report may be filed as an internal document, such as in a manufacturing plant, the more common reference to this type of report has to do with creating and filing an accident report with local authorities. The exact procedures vary from one jurisdiction to another, but there are a few basics that apply in most cases.

For most people, accident reporting takes place at the time of a traffic accident. The law enforcement officials who arrive at the scene of the accident usually initiate the process. As part of the investigation, the police take statements from everyone present at the site of the accident. This will include the drivers of all vehicles involved in the accident as well as any passengers or other witnesses. The idea behind the investigation is to gather as much relevant data regarding the origin of the accident as possible.


As the officers receive data from each participant or witness, they begin to create a structure of the chain of events that led to the accident. Often, the officers will ask clarifying questions of each person at the accident site, making sure they have a correct understanding of the role each vehicle played in the mishap. Because the findings of the investigation will be used to create and file a police accident report, it is imperative that the data be as complete and accurate as possible.

In order to accomplish this task in an orderly fashion, many law enforcement agencies make use of an accident report form. The form helps to provide specific questions regarding the placement of each vehicle in the line of traffic, account for any traffic signs that are in the area, and in general make it possible to create a correct diagram of the scene. The form will also provide a list of specific questions that the officers will use to guide the investigation, including queries on any physical damage to any of the passengers or drivers. The officers document any evidence that alcohol or other mind-altering substances were in use at the time the accident occurred.

Once the officers have completed the investigation, they go over the details with each of the principals. If no other details can be presented that impact the recreation of the chain of events, the officers will submit the report to the local police station, where it is retained on file. From there, the principals can review and request a copy of the traffic accident report for filing with insurance companies or in preparation for filing a suit related to the accident.

In some jurisdictions, a car accident report can electronically transmitted from the site to a central database housed at the local police station. This transmission is made possible by wireless connections that allow the investigating officers to access the database and immediately file the report. The expedited filing of the accident report makes it possible for copies to be obtain without the one to two day waiting period that is common when the report is filed manually.


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