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Car accident crash report

Maybe someone struck your car in a parking lot and left a big dent, but no note. Or, worse, maybe you were hit by a drunk driver who fled the scene while you went to the hospital. In these cases and many others, you may be wondering about a crash report after your car accident. As many drivers know, Florida is a no-fault state providing PIP insurance to cover injuries, but what does this mean for your crash report? Are your required to file one? What if the other driver disappeared and there are no witnesses? We’ve answered some common questions about crash reports in Florida below. 

Florida Crash Reports: Q & A 

Do I Have to File a Crash Report? Even in a No-Fault State?

It’s a good idea to file a crash report in Florida even for small accidents, though you are not always required to. Laws on this vary by state, and even other no-fault states have their own rules, but in Florida you are legally required to file a crash report in the following cases: 

  • Anyone was killed, injured, or seems to be injured 
  • Property damage exceeds $500
  • A driver fled the scene (a hit-and-run)
  • A driver is intoxicated

If any of the above apply, you’ll need to file a crash report with the police. If none of the above apply, you don’t technically have to file a crash report, but there’s no penalty for doing so anyway. The DMV makes it easy to file a crash report online and you can file as many as 10 days after the accident occurred. Having a crash report on file makes it more difficult for drivers to change stories later on and it gives insurance companies clearer records, so it’s helpful to file regardless. 

Do I Need a Crash Report for PIP Insurance? 

Every Florida driver is required to have an car insurance policy which provides Personal Injury Protection benefits up to $2,500 for minor injuries and $10,000 for “emergency medical conditions,” or severe injuries. While it’s not explicitly stated you need a crash report to obtain PIP benefits, any accidents resulting in injuries require a crash report (see section above), so it would be against the law not to have one. 

You have 10 days to file a crash report after an accident and 14 days to receive care covered by PIP benefits. Some injuries, especially neck injuries and other muscle damage, you may only realize in the days after the accident. If this happens and a police officer didn’t file a crash report at the time of the accident, it’s a good idea to file one online before you visit your doctor. This is an important document to file for PIP coverage, and not doing so can make your benefits more complicated.  

Do I Need a Crash Report on Private Property?

The majority of fender benders happen on private property, including parking lots and driveways. Keeping the requirements of a Florida crash report in mind (see first section above),  you are not always legally obligated to file a crash report. However, according to Florida law, being on or off private property at the time of the accident has nothing to do with your crash report. 

In this and other cases where no one was injured, property damage is minimal, and a police officer isn’t available to respond, you may not be able to get an official police report. However, you can still file a crash report yourself, no matter where the accident took place. 

Does a Crash Report Show Fault? 

If you file a crash report with a police officer, the report will be longer and more in-depth than if you were to self-report a crash online or via mail. A police officer’s crash report will show exactly what happened, where, and who and what was involved. Since it’s not always clear what happened or there may be conflicting stories, the report will include statements from the drivers and witnesses. Police officers are also trained to examine the scene and look for signs of reckless driving, such as skid marks that would show a driver was speeding. In this case, the police report will likely show or indicate who caused the accident and who is at fault. Though Florida is a no-fault state, this will be important if a personal injury lawsuit results from the crash. 

The self-report crash form is much shorter, and you will have to clearly state in your own words what happened to establish fault. Give the details of the accident as clearly as you can in the form, as this may make it easier for your insurance company to reimburse you. 

What if the Other Driver Flees the Scene and There Are No Witnesses?

Fleeing the scene of an accident raises red flags for law enforcement, even if no one was injured and property damage was minimal. If a driver flees the scene, call the police and file a crash report. Try to remember whatever details you can about the crash, the other vehicle and the other driver. 

Can I Get a Copy of the Official Crash Report? 

It’s a good idea to get a copy of the official police crash report after an accident, especially if there were serious injuries. To do this, you’ll need to contact the police department that investigated, which might be county, city, state or highway patrol. As a general rule of thumb, accidents that occur within city limits are investigated by city police, smaller towns within the county will likely be investigated by the county, and accidents on interstates or major highways are investigated by state police or highway patrol. 

The crash report can be delivered by mail or email in most cases, and there may be a filing fee. 

Are Crash Reports Confidential? 

Crash reports will stay private for only 60 days after the incident. During this time, the report will be accessible only to the police, the people involved, and their lawyers, if permission is provided. After this, the crash report becomes public record and anyone can access it. Personal information like your social security number, which will be on the crash report, won’t be open to the public. However, reckless driving or drug or alcohol use on the report may be, unless a criminal investigation is under review. 

Crash reports are important documents to have after a collision, even a minor one. When making a crash report or working with a police officer, try to be as clear, calm and accurate as possible. Be sure to double check that the information provided is correct when you get a copy. A clear and accurate crash report can make filing for PIP insurance benefits much easier, and it will ensure that you get the coverage you deserve. 

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