Article Updated: August 9, 2021


Accident Police Report


Police Accident Report DiagramThis is your comprehensive guide on dealing with vehicle accident reports.  In it, you will learn:

   How to get a police report for an accident

   How to read a police accident report

   How to correct a police accident report

  How to Get Accident reports in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Santa Ana County, Ventura County, Kern County, Riverside County, and Santa Barbara County, California

You can read more about our law firm, our results, our attorney fees, or scroll below for the hyperlinked table of contents to this article and start learning about police accident reports.


How to Get a Police Report for An Accident


Getting a police report for an accident is easier than you think, and you can do it in 4 basic steps.

Get a Police Accident Report in 4 Steps

Step one.  At the scene of the accident, the police officer will provide you with an incident report.  This looks a lot like a ticket an officer would give you for speeding.  If the officer does not give this to you, ask for it before you leave the scene.

Step two.  To get a copy of the accident report, call the number on the back of the incident report to request a copy of the police report related to your accident.  There is almost always a web address on the back of that incident report that you can use to request the full accident report online, or that will direct you to specific instructions to get that report in the jurisdiction of your accident.

Step three.  Submit your request and pay the fee.  Depending on where your accident happened, the fee for the police accident report averages between $10-$25.

Step four.  Follow up if you have not received the report in two weeks.  We recommend doing this via written correspondence, not via a phone call.  Why?  A letter leaves a paper trail of your contact and keeps people accountable.

Common Rules in Getting An Accident Report

A few things to be mindful of when requesting your police report.

First, if the accident happened in a jurisdiction that is very big or very small, it can take weeks to get your police accident report.  Be patient, and do not think that something is out of the ordinary.

Second, if someone died in your accident, the report could take months before it is released.  Drafts of these reports are rarely released, even if it is needed for your accident claim.  We have had some luck using former police officers as investigators to retrieve early copies of reports in death cases, but that is not the norm.

Third, the police officer will often not write a report if nobody is injured.  Your adrenaline is pumping after the accident, and you may not feel typical soft tissue injuries.  The worst thing you can tell the officer is that you are not hurt.  Take your time to do a mental checkup of your body, and if you feel anything at all out of the ordinary, tell the officer you are injured so that she or he will prepare an accident report for you.

In the next chapter, I’ll explain how to read a car accident police report using a real report from one of my prior cases.


Reading a Police Accident Report


I will now teach you how to skip past all the fluff in your accident report, and get to the heart of what matters in that report.  Essentially, I will teach you what lawyers do, in 3 steps, in reading a police accident report.

Step 1: Identify How the Officer Labeled the Involved Parties

Every police accident report will have a section where the officer enters information for the people involved in the accident.  That section will have separate boxes or sections for each vehicle, like this (our client’s information has been redacted from this sample):

Reading Police Accident Report - Step 1

Some police reports will call the different vehicles “V1” and “V2”, and others will call them “P1” and “P2.”

On a sheet of paper, take note of which vehicle is yours and which are the other vehicles.

Step 2: Identify the Picture Labels

Next, go to the part of the police accident report where the officer drew or diagrammed the accident, like this:

Reading Police Accident Report - Step 2

 

Confirm that your understanding of the accident correctly matches up with this visual.

For example, if this was your accident report and you were rear-ended, make sure that V2 in the party identity section of the report identifies you and not the other driver.

Step 3: Confirm Accident Description is Accurate

Now jump to the section where the officer wrote a summary or entered notes about what he claims happened before, during, and after the accident, like this:

Reading Police Accident Report - Step 3

Here, in your rear-end accident, you’ve confirmed that you are V2/P2, that you were rear-ended as correctly shown in the diagram, and that the accident description correctly outlines what happened.

You can get in the weeds on other nuances in a police accident report, but this is the heart of it, and is the 3 point check I perform whenever reading a police accident report.

I hope this answers your search of how to read a police accident report, but if not, call our office and ask any remaining questions you have.


How to Correct a Police Report


There are a few variations of this question I’ve heard over the years, including:

   How to correct a police report

  How to contest a police accident report

  How to dispute a police accident report

  How to fix an incorrect police report

The answer to all of these questions is the same, and is the same thing I’ve been telling my clients for years – DO NOT DO IT!!!

I understand where you are coming from in wanting to fix an incorrect accident report.  There are two common reasons clients want to do this.  One is to help their accident claim.  Another is to help protect their insurance rates.

I’ll address why both of those are bad reasons to fix an incorrect police report.

Fixing Incorrect Police Report to Protect Your Insurance Rates

By fixing the incorrect report, you do not make the original report disappear.  It still exists.  Insurance companies can, and will, still consider it in evaluating you for rates.

Also, your current insurance company is not supposed to penalize you with higher rates for being in an accident, regardless of who is at fault, so the correction won’t do anything for you on this point.

However, what your insurance company can and likely will do is remove any discounts you had on your policy for being “claim free.”  A “claim” is a “claim,” regardless of who is at fault, in the insurance company’s eyes.

That discount removal is not a penalty, in their eyes.  It is the removal of a benefit.  It’s a little trick they use to legally penalize you.  They’ll do this regardless of whether you were at fault, so all the effort you pour into correcting your police report will be wasted.

Fixing Incorrect Police Report to Protect Your Accident Claim

I will illustrate why this is a terrible idea with a hypothetical cross examination:

DEFENSE LAWYER:  The accident report said you contributed to the accident?
YOU:  Yes.

DEFENSE LAWYER: But you were not happy about that?
YOU:  Right.

DEFENSE LAWYER: So you called the police department and had them change the report?
YOU: Yes.

DEFENSE LAWYER: Are there any other facts that hurt your case that you changed in this lawsuit???

There are hundreds of variations to this cross-examination, and they all end terribly for you.  Nothing you say or do will change the way it looks – that you are manipulating the evidence to boost the value of your claim.

Well then, how do you fix an incorrect police report?  There is only one good answer – have your lawyer do it for you, assuming your lawyer sees a legal benefit of doing it given your specific circumstances.

If your attorney causes the change, your attorney cannot be cross-examined at trial.  Your attorney will document the change in a way that leaves a positive paper trail.  And importantly, your attorney (assuming she or he knows what they’re doing) will set this all up so it has a chance at being admissible, so the jury knows the truth of what happened and why the correction was necessary.


Southern California Police Accident Reports


How to Get a Police Accident Report in Los Angeles County

According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), you can call the Department following an accident if the accident was a hit and run, or the driver was unlicensed, but no particular injuries have been incurred, by dialing 1-877-ASK-LAPD.

The general number for the LAPD, which you can also use to report an accident, is: 213-486-8130

The LAPD is not required to complete a report if there are no injuries incurred in the vehicle accident, and all the parties have relevant information to resolve the matter amongst themselves. This may involve exchange information regarding driver’s license, insurance, and personal contact.

If you have struck an object or parked vehicle, the LAPD asks you to share your contact information with the owner of the vehicle or property. This information can be provided on paper, which can be placed on the windshield of the vehicle or left in the mailbox for the damaged residential property.

Who Can Obtain an LAPD Accident Report?

Section 20012 of the California Vehicle Code states that “any person who may have a proper interest” in a police accident report is entitled to get a copy.

How Can You Obtain the Report?

To obtain a police report in Los Angeles County, you are required to download the necessary form, complete it, and send it back.

This report has to be returned with an $18.00 money order or check that is payable to the LAPD. The department does not accept payments in cash. The money order and form should be mailed to:

Los Angeles Police Department
Records and Identification Division
Document Processing Unit
P.O. Box 30158
Los Angeles, CA 90030

LAPD takes a minimum of 45 days before it can take the request into account. This period is necessary to review and approve the report for release.

If you are unable to fill out the form, you can make a written request.  You are required to provide the following information in your written request:

   Type of report (Traffic Accident)

  Name, address, and number of the requestor

   The incident number of LAPD report (D.R.) number if known

   Date of birth of the requester

   Name(s) of the parties involved in the report

   Location, date, and time of the vehicle accident/occurrence

   License plate number, as well as State of Registration of the vehicle(s) involved

If you are not a party who was involved in the accident, you must include release forms for the legal party and proof of relationship if you are a parent or guardian of that party.

Your declaration, attached to any written request, should state: “I declare this statement is true and correct, sign and date your request.”

Learn more about the traffic collision report at LAPD’s website.

How to Get a Police Accident Report in Orange County

If you were involved in a traffic accident that occurred in Orange County, you can request your police accident report by contacting the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). The Department releases report to only those who are directly involved in the incident, identified as:

♦   Drivers of the vehicle

   Registered owners of the vehicle

   Parents/guardians of minors involved in the accident

   Any individual injured in the accident

   Any individual whose property has been injured in the accident

   All the involved passengers

   Insurance companies and legal attorneys of the parties

The OCSD allow requests to be made in the following ways:

Online.  To make a request online, you can access the online form available on OCSD’s website.  You will have to explain how you are involved in the accident and mention the incident date, driver’s name, and case number.

By email.  You can download a request form from the OCSD website, fill it, and email it as an attachment to reportrequest@ocsd.org.

By Fax.  To submit your request for the police report through fax, you can fill the following form (in black ink only) and fax it to: Fax: 714-834-5466.

The cost of getting a report is $0.15 per page. If your report request is denied, you will get a denial letter pursuant to California Government Code section 6255 (b).

It takes about ten days until the report can be determined if the report can be released. Therefore, before you make a request for the report, it is suggested to contact the Records Unit at 714-834-6455 to verify if the report is available.

Learn more via the OCSD’s official website.

How to Get a Police Accident Report in Ventura County

You can request a police report for an accident in Ventura Cunty through the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.  You can do so in the following ways:

In-Person.  If you want to request a police report in person, you can go to the records unit at the Sheriff’s office. You can then make a formal request to the clerk available on duty for the report. You will be asked for identification.  You can contact the records unit in advance at 805.339.4418 or visit the office from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm between Monday to Thursday.

By Mail.  You can request a Ventura County accident police report through the mail. To do so, you can send in a mailed request that should include the following:

  A request letter mentioning you need the report

   Your personal information

   A copy of valid identification

   Details regarding the accident

   The report number

   And a convenience fee of $10.00

Before you request the report, it is recommended you wait for a minimum of 14 days from the date of the accident because the Department requires a specific time before the report can be made available for review.

Here’s the form you can fill out to get your Ventura County accident report.

Read more about Ventura County collision accident report retrieval and traffic collision report process and information on the City of Ventura Police Department’s website.

How to Get a Police Accident Report in Kern County

You can obtain a traffic accident police report in Kern County from the Sheriff’s office.  You have several options to make this request:

In-person.  You can make a request in person to get a Kern County traffic accident report at the following address:

1350 Norris Road
Bakersfield
CA 93308

You can submit your request between Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. You will be required to show your photo identification such as a passport, license, resident alien card, or school I.D. You will only be able to get the traffic accident report if you are involved in the accident.

Via U.S. Mail.  When sending the request through U.S. mail, you should include the report number, the location, and the date of the incident, as well as the names of all the involved parties. It is also required that your written report include a print of your right thumb and is notarized. Moreover, you should have a copy of your photo identification and a money order for the required fees.

The mailing address for mail requested reports is:

Kern County Sheriff’s Office
Records Section
1350 Norris Road
Bakersfield, CA 93308

You can visit the Kern County Sheriff’s office for more information.

How to Get a Police Accident Report in San Bernardino County

If your accident occurred in San Bernardino County, you could request a copy of a collision request in the following ways:

In-person.  To make a request, you can visit the police station at 710 north D street, San Bernardino, California 92401, and visit the records department. The clerk will help you get the traffic collision report. However, you will have to wait a few days until your request can be processed. You will have to pay $0.15 per page for the report. You can visit the office during regular work hours.

Through mail.  You can also send a written request with all the required information to the police department, at the same address above. However, it is important to consult with the clerk before requesting the police report, as it takes few days until the report can be ready for release.  Information you should include in your request includes:

   Type of report (Traffic Accident)

  Name, address, and number of the requestor

   The incident number if known

   Date of birth of the requester

   Name(s) of the parties involved in the report

   Location, date, and time of the vehicle accident

   License plate number, as well as State of Registration of the vehicle(s) involved

Get more information via San Bernardino County Police Department’s website.

How to Get a Police Accident Report in Riverside County

You can get police reports in Riverside County only through an in-person procedure. You will have to visit the Sheriff’s department to request a copy of a report at:

4095 Lemon Street
Riverside
CA 92501

You can contact the Sheriff’s department at (951) 955-2440 to check on whether the report is available before you make the trip.

You will be required to pay $1.00 per page for the requested report. You should also have proper identification documents and case number.

Visit Riverside County Sheriff’s Office’s website for more information.

How to Get a Police Accident Report in Santa Barbara County

To get a police accident report in Santa Barbara County, you can submit a request in the following ways:

By email.  Download the report request form and email it to records@sbsheriff.org.

In-person.  To get a copy of your Santa Barbara County accident report in person, visit: 434 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, California, 93110 between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm.

U.S. mail or Fax.  For these methods, you can mail or fax your request to:

P.O. Box 6427
Santa Barbara, California 93160-6427
Fax: 805-681-5346

The fee is $9.50 for up to 10 pages, and an additional $0.10 per page after that.

All of this is outlined on the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office’s website.


Police Accident Report Q&A


Can you claim a car accident without police report?

Yes, you can claim a car accident without a police report.  However, you should expect LOTS of difficulties if it was a hit and run and you do not have a police report.  If it was a hit and run, you should ALWAYS call the police and get a report.  If it is not a hit and run, we recommend you always call the police, and also get a photo of the driver that hit you.  This will help prevent arguments later on about who the driver was, which sometimes can become an issue if the defendant denies liability.

Do you Have to Report Your Accident to the Police?

In California, drivers have certain obligations to report the accident as soon as possible. This obligation is outlined under the California Vehicle Code section 20008 that states the driver of any vehicle or the representatives of the driver in a car accident should “report of the accident to the Department of the California Highway Patrol or, if the accident occurred within a city, to either the Department of the California Highway Patrol or the police department of the city in which the accident occurred.”

How long to file a police report for car accident?

You should file a police report immediately after an accident – meaning while you are still at the scene of the accident.  Once you leave the scene, for various reasons, the police are highly unlikely to prepare a report for you.  It can also hurt your case and will be used against you that you did not call the police.

Is a police report admissible in a civil case?

Parts of an accident police report are admissible as evidence in a civil case, and parts are not.  The admissible parts are those that the responding police officer personally observed, such as date, time, location, identification of the parties, skid marks on the road, and statements from anyone at the scene.  The inadmissible parts are any description of the accident, how it happened, why it happened, and who was liable.  Those latter parts, however, can become admissible if they are the result of an accident investigation, which often occurs in serious injury and fatality cases.  That is because an accident investigation qualifies as an expert report, for which the drafter does not require personal knowledge of the underlying facts to prepare.

Are police reports hearsay?

Yes, parts of police accident reports are hearsay, but can nonetheless be admissible.  For example, if the person who rear-ended you tells the police officer he was on his cell phone and the officer writes that in the report, that is hearsay.  Nonetheless, there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule, and under one of those exceptions, that statement will still be admissible.  Thus, you don’t gain much by knowing whether information in a police accident report is hearsay.  You need to conduct the second part of the analysis, which is determining whether the specific part in that report that concerns you is admissible under one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Can a police officer change a police report?

Yes, a police officer can change a police report, and can also make amendments or supplements to an accident report that she or he writes.  A word of caution – do NOT make a request to a police officer or police department to change or amend your accident report, as it will substantially hurt your accident claim value and case.  An section of this article covered that topic, and you would be well served by reading it.

Do I need to report the accident to the DME in California?

Yes, if a police officer does not arrive at the scene to write a formal report and someone is injured, it is essential to report the accident to the California DMV within 10 days of the accident.  For more information about this obligation, refer to California Vehicle Code sections 20000 through 20018.

Is there any reason why I should not report an accident?

There is no reason why you should not report an accident.  You have nothing to gain by not reporting the accident, and something to lose.  It is not uncommon for a defendant in a car accident case to deny that an accident happened or that she/he was the driver of the vehicle that hit you.  Reporting the accident and getting a police officer at the scene eliminates these shenanigans and ensures that bad drivers are held accountable.


Get Answers for Your Police Accident Report Questions


If this article did not answer your question(s), please call us.  Our toll free number is at the top of this page and below, our email address is info@injuryag.com, and we have a contact submission form below.

We have helped hundreds of accident victims recover compensation for their accidents, and have done this with good and bad police reports.  Whenever you are ready, we are here to help.

Lawyer Experienced in Herniated Disc Injuries & Steroid Injection Settlements

California Vehicle Code, Section 10.20012

California Vehicle Code, Section 10.20008

Los Angeles Police Department, Application for Release of Traffic Report Form

Los Angeles County Police Department

Orange County Sheriff’s Department

City of Ventura Police Department, Traffic Collision Report Retrieval Page

Kent County Sheriff’s Office

City of San Bernardino Police Department Online Reporting Page

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Police Accident Report Form Center

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Police Accident Report Request Page

About the Author

Article Author:  This law article was written by attorney Ray Benyamin, Esquire.  Mr. Benyamin received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and his license to practice law from the State Bar of California.  His law license number is 277263.  He has been practicing law for 10 years.  Mr. Benyamin is a registered member of the following legal organizations: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Association for Justice (AAJ).  Mr. Benyamin has personally helped his clients recover over $10,000,000 in vehicle accident insurance claims in the State of California.