If you’ve been involved in a serious car accident, the police will generally come out to investigate the accident and lay charges on the at fault driver, if necessary.
At the scene of the car accident, police officers are required to take notes. Some officers notes are more detailed (and legible) than others. The police officers may also prepare an accident report at the scene of the collision, or back at the station. Those officers may (or may not) give you a copy of the accident report on the scene. Or, it may be provided to you at a later date (at a charge).
The motor vehicle accident report, or the police report as it’s commonly called, is the building block for proving liability in any personal injury car accident case.
This is the starting point for personal injury lawyers, insurers, defence lawyers and judges to understand how the accident happened.
The police report provides what’s supposed to be an objective synopsis of what happened.
Let me be perfectly clear. Sometimes the police don’t get it right. Their intentions are in the right place, but we are all human and we make errors. It happens.
Unfortunately, when these errors in reporting the collision happen, it can have a significant impact on the personal injury case.
Different police detachments do things differently. In an ideal world, after you or a loved one has been injured in a serious car accident, the police officer will provide to the injured party or their family a copy of the police report which contains the following information which is crucial to getting the case started:
- Date of Loss
- Time of Loss
- Location of the Collision
- Names and Addresses of the parties involved
- License Plate, Make and Model Numbers of the vehicles involved
- Insurance Company and Insurance Policy Numbers of the parties involved
- Drivers’ Licence Numbers of the Parties Involved
- A list of the charges given to the at fault party, if any charges were laid
- A brief synopsis of how the accident happened
- Whether or not any EMS vehicles were present at the scene
- The names and contact information of any witnesses or other parties to the accident
- The accident/incident number
- Name and Badge number of the investigating police officer along with their detachment
Often this information is NOT contained in the police report, or if it is, it’s redacted. This can make your personal injury lawyers’ life a bit more difficult, and slow down your ability to recover the benefits you deserve following a car accident case.
Some police forces don’t provide anything at the accident scene and will request that you go through the police station to get the police report. This can slow things down considerably. This will also leave the people who were involved in the accident with a lot of questions and doubt that the car accident is being investigated properly.
A lot of forces can take a look at what the Toronto Police Service and the York Regional Police do for car accident cases. Instead of handing the parties a complete police report, or an officer’s business card, they provide them with pertinent information on a summary. In the case of York Regional Police, it’s a three panel leaflet that contains the names of the parties, insurance information, accident number and information of the investigating officer.
The Toronto Police does something very similar. They provide an accident summary on one sheet of paper to the parties involved in a car accident.
In both cases, if any party wishes to get a complete copy of the actual police report, they can do so through the station’s Freedom of Information department and by paying the requisite fee.
There are multiple advantages to this system. By giving the parties a brief summary of synopsis of the car accident, those parties and their lawyers can do what they need to do when it comes to starting an accident benefit claim and putting all of the parties and insurers on notice.
It also provides the police with some time to prepare the police report. They may not want to release a police report without having done all of their due diligence such as witness interviews, viewing any surveillance footage or even preparing an accident reconstruction report. This way they police aren’t tied down to what they may have prepared earlier on in case some evidence surfaces later on. This system in a win-win for both the polices forces and for the people whom they serve. Leaving the public in the dark about the pertinent information of the car accident accomplishes nothing but creating doubt, frustration, anger and rage. It’s also not a good way of serving the public which is part of what police work is all about.
Many clients want to know what other documents the police may have in relation to a car accident. There are police officer’s notes which are sometimes redacted and hard to read. There are witness statements, along with statements from the parties involved in the car accident. There may be photographs of the accident scene, along with photographs of the roadway and vehicles involved in the collision. There may be photographs of the injuries to the parties. If there was any drugs or alcohol suspected, there may be photographs of any empty bottles, drugs etc. If there is an accident reconstruction completed, there will be technical crash data, speed data and other engineering data and diagrams of the collision. If there are charges laid either under the Highway Traffic Act, or under the Criminal Code, then there will be a Crown Brief which can only be secured by way of Court Order. Most, of the information we’ve detailed can only be obtained in an unredacted form by way of Court Order. It’s sometimes comical for the staff at Goldfinger Injury Lawyers to request police files, and then hundreds of pages return, only to find that all of those pages are completely redacted! This happens more than you think. It’s only by way of Court Order that those documents will be unredacted.