Sometimes you don't need to file a police report following an auto accident. Most minor scratches, dents and fender-benders really don't require a police report.
The law will vary from state to state. You'll want to call your auto insurance agent to find out what the rules are where you live, but the qualifiers for requiring a police report generally include the following:
- Total damages amount to $500 or more
- A vehicle needs to be towed away
- An involved party is injured or complaining of discomfort
If your accident covers just one of these points, you'll need to file a police report. Essentially: If it's worth filing a car insurance claim, then you will be required to file a police report.
The report can come in handy following even a minor accident. Should it come to a lawsuit, you'll have a legal document establishing what happened and it will be harder for anyone to misremember or change their story to suit their demands. The human memory can be a little hazy, and we all have those moments where we find out we were wrong on something we were dead certain about. That's fine if you're just misremembering movie scenes or the color of your shoes, but not so much when it comes to a car accident.
Luckily, you don't need to figure out right away whether or not your accident requires a police report. In most states you have a few days to file a report. Florida, for instance, gives you ten. As long as you file your report before you hit that deadline, you should be fine.
It's a good idea to take notes right after a car accident, whether or not you plan on filing a report. Having a record for yourself and for your insurer, at the very least, can make it easier to file a claim, and easier to remember precisely what happened on the day of the accident.
You probably don't feel like pulling out a journal and jotting down your thoughts right after an accident, but you can make a document on your phone, photographing the accident and recording your version of the story. Even a minor accident can be traumatic. It may be difficult remembering precise details later, so getting the facts down right away is never a bad idea.