When to file a police accident report?

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When to file a police accident report?

My wife and I pulled our van out of the garage a few weeks ago, and when lifting the back door notice a large dent. We assume that we were hit by someone – who perhaps backed into us at a parking lot. We only use the vehicle once or twice a week and seldom even use the back door. Since our insurance only covers damage we cause to other vehicles, and we had no clue as to when or even where this damage might had occurred, we decided that it was futile to contact the police. It seemed that we could be of very little help to them at providing information of any kind that might be helpful, especially since we weren’t reporting this to our insurance company anyway because it wouldn’t be covered by our insurance anyway. In afterthought, should we have gone ahead and filed a police report anyway? What advantage, if any, would there have been. And if we should have, is it too late to do so?

Asked on January 28, 2012 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Thank you for submitting your question regarding when to file a police report for a motor vehicle accident.  First, you should be aware that the laws regarding filing a police report may vary depending on the state in which you reside, but there are some general themes usually seen throughout the states. 

There are some states that will not file a police report for a motor vehicle accident unless someone has suffered a personal injury.  If no one is injured, a police officer will usually have the drivers exchange insurance information and allow the drivers to leave the scene.  The reasoning is that the officer was not a witness to the accident and the officer’s account of the accident should not be a determination of liability and that determination should be left to the insurance companies. 

However, if your vehicle has sustained damage while outside of your house then you may want to notify the police, because you may want to alert them of any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.  If you believe that the police should be aware of the damage that occurred to your vehicle, then it there is no harm in calling to let them know about the damage.  The sooner you call the better, and the police will let you know if a report should be written for this incident.  The police department may want a written record of events of the type of property damage that you sustained in case someone else in your neighborhood should sustain similar damage in the near future.  If someone should get the same damage, and the police are able to ascertain the offender, then you may find out who caused the damage to your vehicle.

 


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