When you are involved in a car accident in New York, one of the first things you should do (assuming you are physically able to do so) is call 911. When you call 911, the dispatcher will send a police officer to the scene. Typically, the responding officer will prepare a police report, and in most cases, he or she will provide each driver with a copy.
But, what if this doesn’t happen? What if no one calls 911 from the scene, or what if you leave the scene without obtaining a copy of the police report? In these circumstances, you may need to file a police report on your own.
When Should You File a Police Report After an Accident?
If the police did not prepare a report, or if you don’t know whether the police prepared a report, then you may have an obligation to file a report under New York law. While New York residents must report all accidents resulting in injuries or more than $1,000 in property damage to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), New York residents must also file police reports in the circumstances we just discussed.
A police report is filed using Form MV-104A (not to be confused with the form used to report an accident to the DMV, which is Form MV-104). You can obtain the form from your local police station. If you are unsure whether a police report has already been filed, you can inquire about this at your local police station as well. Our lawyers can also explain your legal obligations and assist you with filing a police report if necessary.
Why Should You File a Police Report After an Accident?
Why should you go through the trouble of filing a report? First, it is required by New York law. If the police did not prepare a report at the scene of your accident, then you may have a legal duty to file a report promptly after your collision. If you fail to do so, you could face a fine and other penalties.
Second, filing a police report can also help significantly with your insurance claim. When you file an insurance claim after an accident, the insurance company reviews the available evidence in order to determine whether it has an obligation to pay.
A police report can be a key piece of evidence in this regard. While the police report isn’t necessarily probative in terms of who was at fault (or how much you are entitled to receive), it at least helps to confirm that the accident occurred. In the absence of an official record, the insurance company could try to claim that there is insufficient evidence to prove that your injuries and the damage to your vehicle resulted from a collision.
What Happens if You Don’t File a Police Report?
What are the consequences of failing to file a police report? The answer depends on whether a responding officer prepared a report at the scene of your accident. If a police report already exists, you are not required to file a second report on your own. However, if no police report exists, then failing to file one could lead to:
- Criminal penalties for failing to report an accident, and
- Unnecessary challenges with your insurance claim.
Also, don’t forget that you probably need to file a report with the New York DMV as well. Failure to file this report can also lead to penalties under New York law.
Can you get away with not filing either of these reports? Maybe, but trying to do so would be ill-advised. If you file an insurance claim without a police report, the insurance company will inquire; and, even if you don’t file a report with the police or the New York DMV, there is a good chance that the other driver will. As a result, it is generally best to do what is required. If you have any questions or concerns about your legal obligations following an accident in New York, you should consult with a lawyer promptly.
Talk to a Kingston Car Accident Lawyer for Free
Do you have questions about what you need to do following a car, truck, or motorcycle accident? If so, we encourage you to speak with one of our lawyers in confidence. O’Connor & Partners, PLLC has extensive experience in a wide range of personal injury matters. We are committed to helping injury victims pursue the full and fair compensation they need to move on with their lives.
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If you’ve been hurt in a wreck, you shouldn’t have to face your injuries alone. For a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced Kingston car accident lawyer, call (845) 303-8777 or tell us how we can help online now. We serve clients in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and other areas in New York.