If you end up in an auto accident despite well-meaning laws, an accident report may offer advantages for your insurance claim. Whether it is submitted by a driver or the police officer reporting to the scene, it is considered a contemporaneous record of your accident. It often contains facts that you may forget over time and could avoid a dispute over fault.
It is important to know the accident reporting laws in West Virginia and how you can retrieve copies of reports. Here are common questions on accident reports and how to access them.
When Do You Need an Accident Report?
Accident reports fall under two categories: police and driver. If you call the police to an accident scene, the officer will file the report. However, if the damages are not extensive enough to get the police involved, then you will file a driver report.
When You Need to Call a Police Officer
West Virginia law requires immediate notification of crashes. If the accident caused injuries and at least $1,000 of damages, you need to call an officer to the scene. Reporting officers must interview all participants and witnesses within 24 hours and file a report within 10 days.
If the damages are under $1,000, an officer does not need to be called to the scene. But if they are more than $500, drivers must file the report. This can be done through the Department of Transportation.
How to File a Driver’s Accident Report
You can find the form online with the Department of Transportation. It is in Microsoft Word format so you can fill it out on your computer or print it out to write it in by hand. You can also find these forms at your local DMV office.
If an officer reported to the scene, you will need to contact that police department. Most officers will give you a business card when they arrive so you know where to follow up and request copies of the report.
How to Get a Copy of the Accident Report
If the West Virginia state police reported to the accident, you download their report request form here. Fees vary from $20.00 to up to $505 for a reconstructed report. Your personal injury attorney will know what type of report is required to find the facts of your case. If you are handling your personal injury claim on your own, purchase the basic report and from that, you can see if you require copies of pictures or any supplemental documents
The Huntington Police Department recently made reports available online. Visit this page and fill in many fields as possible to secure a copy of your report. If you have difficulty, there is a number available to order the report over the telephone.
If you are not certain which police department reported to the scene, you may wish to hire a personal injury attorney so you have assistance collecting this essential evidence. This is especially necessary if fault is disputed or if you remember the other driver being impaired or receiving a ticket.
For the reports you file, we recommend you keep a copy for your records. If you end up having to retrieve it from the DMV again, you will pay a fee and have to wait longer to receive your copy.
How an Accident Report Can Help Your Claim
Accident reports are an excellent way to preserve facts of the case. Memories fade in time and if you suffered a head injury, you may not remember all the circumstances completely. An accident report, especially if it was filed by a police officer, can clear up these matters.
If a driver received a ticket or was impaired, the report also establishes that fact. This reduces the possibility of facing disputed liability when we start negotiating for a settlement.
When you sustain injuries in an accident but the damages were not bad enough to call the police, file a report as soon as possible while your memory is still fresh. It can be years before a claim sees trial if we must come to that. An accident report filed shortly after the occurrence establishes facts you can forget in time.
Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP offers decades of experience in personal injury cases and knows where to find your accident report. If you would rather focus on recovery and avoid chasing documents, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.