A police report is not necessarily required in order to file an insurance claim after an accident. If you want to make an accident claim in New York, you are not required to provide a police report to the insurance company. With that being said, it’s important to understand that the claims process may be more challenging without an accident report from the police, and the insurance company may give you a hard time when you’re filing a claim if you do not have the report.

Navigating New York’s Motor Vehicle Accident Report

A motor vehicle accident report, or police report, can be obtained by filling out a request with the police precinct that the accident took place in. The general rules for requesting this document are that your car must have been involved, and the accident must have occurred less than 30 days prior to submitting the request.

There is also an online portal that allows drivers involved in a collision to file online.

Insurance Companies: Profit over Justice

When you reach out to the insurance company to file your claim, the adjusters and representatives will likely make you feel as though they are on your side. It’s important to remember that they aren’t. Insurance companies are for-profit companies. Their loyalties lie with shareholders and their bottom line.

Insurers will likely look for any reason to deny or minimize your claim. If they do give you a settlement offer, there is a high chance it will be insufficient. Be prepared to face hurdles from the insurance company when filing an accident claim.

Understanding Evidence Admissibility and the Hearsay Rule

Police reports may be important elements in insurance company settlement negotiations, but they offer little to no value if you pursue a lawsuit for the accident due to New York’s hearsay rule. Hearsay is a statement made outside of court by someone who is not a witness or by a witness while they were not testifying. Hearsay statements can be written, oral, or non-verbal.

Because a police report will not likely be allowed to be admitted into evidence at trial, many car accident attorneys will subpoena the person who wrote the report to appear as a witness. This allows the author of the police report to testify regarding the details of the accident without worrying about hearsay.

Establishing Fault Without Reliance on an Accident Report

Police reports are often used to establish fault or support an injured person’s version of the accident. However, it is possible to establish fault without this report. In addition to calling the responding officer who wrote the report to testify, your attorney may also use the following pieces of evidence to support your accident claim:

  • Medical records

  • Photographs of the accident scene, property damage, and your injuries

  • Expert witness testimony

  • Eyewitness reports

  • Video footage of the accident

Determining the Compensation You Deserve

Significant injuries require extensive treatment, but medical costs are not the only claim for damages that accident victims can make in New York. You can seek economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include existing medical bills, future medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the accident.

Non-economic damages cover compensation for nontangible harm that is difficult to valuate, including pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and humiliation.

In rare cases, a third type of damages may be available. Punitive damages are uncommon in car accident cases and are meant to penalize the at-fault party rather than compensate the injured victim. This type of damages is only awarded when the other driver’s conduct was grossly negligent or malicious.

Comparative Fault in New York

New York uses a comparative fault system to decide faults in car accidents. This means that more than one person can be responsible for causing an accident. Police reports are useful in determining who was at fault and how liability should be divided.

Comparative fault systems require an injured person’s compensation to be decreased by their percentage of fault. For example, suppose James and Theo are in an accident. James is awarded $25,000 in damages and found to be 10% at fault for the collision. His actual compensation would equal $22,500 once the 10% is deducted.

Settlements are common in personal injury cases, but if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, litigation could also be a viable option. Whatever path you decide to pursue, consider getting help from a car accident attorney. Trying to negotiate by yourself with the insurance company’s adjuster or attorney puts you at a disadvantage. You need someone who knows the ins and outs of settlement negotiations and will not back down from the insurer’s intimidation tactics.

New York City Car Accident Attorney

Whether you plan on negotiating a settlement or filing a lawsuit to litigate your accident case, the Mark E. Seitelman Law Offices can support and represent you throughout the entire process. There’s no risk in speaking with our accident attorneys because we offer free consultations. Contact us today to discuss your case and see why so many New Yorkers trust us with their legal issues.