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The Importance of Filing a Police Report

The Importance of Filing a Police Report

The Seitelman Law Firm cares about your claim and we want to ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve.  This is why we want to take a moment to discuss an often overlooked step that is critical to your successful recovery: the police incident report.

After an accident, your first priority should be attending to your immediate medical needs.  If the police are not already on the scene, you should make every attempt to have them report to the scene. In any case, be sure to at least do one the following:

  1. Call  the police and have them report to the scene to take a report; or
  2. Have the police come to the hospital  to take the report; or
  3. Go to the police precinct to file a report within 24 hours of the accident.

You must report the incident to the police within 24 hours of the incident.  A failure to report may prevent you from obtaining a recovery.

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why it is best to have the police report taken at the scene of the accident:

  • The police report proves that the defendant was present at the scene of the accident. We have encountered cases where the defendant claims to have been elsewhere at the time of the accident.  Without a police report, it may be your word against the defendant’s.  The police report corroborates your claim by proving that the accident occurred and that the defendant was present.
  • The police report is required to gain a recovery from an uninsured vehicle/driver. If the defendant has no insurance, you may have grounds for an uninsured motorist claim.  You may be able to make a claim through your own insurance company or through the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). In either case, to receive medical benefits and a possible recovery, you must have a police report filed within 24 hours of the accident.
  • The police report is required to gain a recovery from a “hit and run” accident.  In a hit and run accident, the offending vehicle flees the scene and is often unidentified. To receive a recovery for your injuries and to be able to file for medical benefits, you must have a police report filed within 24 hours.
  • Important note: we have encountered instances where the police refuse to take an accident report after the fact at the police precinct. Often, the officer will direct the victim to file an accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicle in Albany (a MV-104 form). This form is insufficient! Always insist on an actual police report.

A police report is vital in any accident, but never is it more important than in a hit and run case. Over the years, we have had no choice but to refuse cases from clients who failed to report the accident within 24 hours. The clients simply had no grounds on which to bring a case.

Never rely on a witness to identify a vehicle.  Witnesses frequently make errors when identifying vehicle makes, models and license plate numbers. If a vehicle is incorrectly identified, you may have no basis for a recovery.

We once had an unfortunate client who neglected to report the accident to the police.  Instead, he chose to rely upon an unknown witness who wrote down an incorrect license plate number of the fleeing vehicle.  Unfortunately, the owner of the alleged vehicle was able to prove that the vehicle was not at the scene – the license plate number the witness had supplied was incorrect. As a result, the client had no grounds for a recovery and was unable to proceed with his own medical insurance claim. 

In another case, a client’s foot was fractured when it was run over by a limo in midtown Manhattan.  The driver of the limo stopped briefly, but then sped away.  The client wrote down the license plate but she did not call the police to the scene. Instead, she hailed a cab and went to New York hospital for treatment.  Fortunately, in this case, the client correctly identified the vehicle and the driver admitted that the accident had occurred.  However, if the driver had denied involvement and offered testimony that he was in Buffalo rather than Midtown, the client’s recovery might have been defeated because she failed to report the incident to the police.

If you or a loved one is injured in an accident, seek immediate medical treatment, then make sure that you report the incident to the police within the 24 hours.

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