When police respond to the scene of a car accident, they provide emergency assistance, speak with witnesses and other involved parties, and provide any necessary citations. After this, the responding officer will create a police report that details their own observations as well as what others told them had happened. Responding officers are required by Pennsylvania law to write these accident reports. These reports can be useful for survivors of accidents who need compensation for the serious injuries they sustained.
While these reports aren't the deciding factor for determining fault, police reports can be a great source of information on:
- What each involved party said happened
- What witnesses observed
- The responding officer's opinion for who was at fault for an accident
If you've been in a car accident in Pennsylvania, it's imperative that you take the steps to obtain the police report for it as soon as possible. Doing this can help your insurance claim and can help you verify if the report is accurate.
Obtaining a Police Report After a PA Car Accident
On the Pennsylvania State Police Department's website, you can find Form SP 7-0015, which is the document called the Application to Obtain a Copy of a Police Report. Who can use this form? Anyone who was involved in the accident, their attorney, insurers, the federal government, and other officials. Even if you are someone who has the right to ask for this police report, you need to wait until 15 days after the crash before you submit this request.
Form SP7-0015 asks for information such as:
- Your information
- When the crash occurred
- Why you need a copy of the report
Once completed, you'll need to send the form and the fee ($22.00 at the time of this post) to the Pennsylvania State Police Crash Reports Unit. The address for this unit is included on the form itself.
If your accident wasn't investigated by someone from the Pennsylvania State Police Department, you'll need to make a request with the right law enforcement agency. For example, if an officer from the Harrisburg Bureau of Police responded to your accident, you'll need to request a report from that agency specifically.
To request an auto accident report from the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, do one of the following:
- Visit the HBP in person at 123 Walnut St, 2nd Level, Harrisburg, PA 17101
- Email a request to email@example.com
- Send a request with the right fee ($15) to the HBP
Do You Have to Report a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?
If you're involved in a car accident, the existence of a police report does not let you off the hook from your duty to file a report of your own. Per Pennsylvania law, you must always report an accident that you were in. If someone was injured or killed in a crash you were involved in, you must also always call the police. The law also requires a police investigation when vehicles are damaged to the extent that they are unable to operate.
If you've been in an accident that no police responded to, you're still required to file an accident report with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) within 5 days of your accident. Failing to do so might result in the suspension of your driver's license. It's important to note that all parties should file an accident report, whether they're at fault for the incident or not.
Some insurance companies might deny a person compensation after an accident if they fail to file an accident report.
To file an accident report with PennDOT, start by obtaining a copy of form AA-600. This form will ask you for details about the accident and what happened, and it will also provide you with a box for you to draw a diagram of the event. Once you've completed the form, mail it to the Bureau of Highway Safety and Traffic Engineering's address (which is listed on the form).
While in the aftermath of an accident, filing a report within five days may seem like an inconvenience, filing a report creates an official, legal record of your accident. If medical complications or other damages from the accident start later, you will have an early and official record of the accident.
Are You Required to Call the Police After a Pennsylvania Car Accident?
If there were no injuries or significant property damage caused by the crash, then Pennsylvania law does not require the parties involved to call the police. However, it's often wise to call the police for an accident so that an official report will be created for your accident—especially if you weren't at fault for the accident.
A police report can help serve as an early record of your accident and can be used as evidence if the other party tries to change the story or exaggerate the extent of their damages. Never agree to the other driver's request to work out your accident without the involvement of the police.
What Information Is in a Police Accident Report?
The police accident report contains vital information that the responding officer observed at the scene of the accident. It provides basic information such as a crash's location, who was involved in it, any injuries, and how much property damage it caused.
The report can also detail how traffic was moving at the time of the crash, driving conditions, and information about traffic patterns, signs, and signals that could have affected the accident. Additionally, the report will describe any traffic violations the officer believes were violated, if either party was tested for drugs or alcohol influence, and a diagram of how the accident happened (according to visual evidence and the reports of those involved with it).
Police reports will include information such as:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- Contact information for each driver
- Insurance information for all drivers
- Contact information for potential eyewitnesses
- The weather conditions and road conditions at the time of the accident
- A diagram of the accident scene, including the position of the vehicle
- Any personal observations the officer may have of the accident scene
- Information regarding who was at fault for the accident
What If There's No Police Report, or There Are Errors in the Police Report?
If you do not have a police report, the police report is inaccurate, or the police report is incomplete, this is not the end of your personal injury case. Evidence from the accident scene, such as photographs taken by the driver, eyewitness statements, physical evidence, and your own personal account of the accident are important pieces of evidence that your car accident attorney can use to establish liability on the part of the other driver.
If possible, take photographs of the accident scene immediately after the accident and obtain contact information for any eyewitnesses to the accident. Provide this information to your car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can then conduct a thorough accident investigation themselves to identify and preserve key evidence in your case.
A Pennsylvania Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You Set the Record Straight
If you're having trouble getting the compensation you need from your car insurance company or you sustained serious injuries that you need help with, Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC is standing by to help. For more than 100 years, our Harrisburg car accident lawyers have been relied on by people who need help getting compensated after an accident. We're ready to use your accident's police report as well as our own in-depth investigation to work toward the results you need. While nothing guarantees the outcome of your case, working with our team puts a trusted team of experienced car accident lawyers on your side.
You can reach us at (888) 498-3023 today to request your free consultation. If we take your case, you won't have to pay us unless we secure compensation on your behalf.