A traffic crash report can contain a wealth of information that helps you and your injury lawyer prepare your case. It can help you track down witnesses, identify who received traffic citations, and even find the police officer’s observations about the crash.
Florida law enforcement agencies use a uniform traffic crash report and file their reports with the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT). Local law enforcement agencies, like the Miami-Dade Police Department, also provide crash reports for accidents they investigate.
Here is some information on Miami traffic crash reports, including what they contain and how you can use them.
Duties After a Traffic Crash in Florida
When you get into a car accident in Florida, you must take several steps. You must follow these steps whether the traffic accident involves another vehicle, a pedestrian, a bicycle, or property damage. Failing to take these steps could expose you to prosecution for a hit-and-run.
If the accident caused injury or death, you must:
- Stop at the accident scene
- Render aid to anyone injured in the accident
- Report the accident to the local police
You must also report the accident if it causes more than $500 worth of property damage.
The Crash Investigation
When you report an accident, the local law enforcement agency will send officers to investigate the crash. The investigating officers will interview the drivers and any witnesses about the accident. The officers will collect information from the drivers, such as their driver’s license numbers, addresses, and insurance policy numbers.
They will also make observations about the crash scene and the drivers. For example, the officers might measure skid marks and administer a breathalyzer test to anyone who appears impaired.
The Crash Report
Based on the investigation, the police officers will prepare a crash report. Florida law authorizes two types of crash reports:
Long-Form Crash Reports
Police officers must complete a long-form crash report when an accident:
- Causes injury or death
- Results from a DUI
- Involves a commercial vehicle
- Disables a vehicle
- Involves a driver who left the scene after damaging property
A long-form traffic crash report includes:
- Date, time, and location of the crash
- Vehicles, including any issued citations
- Insurance companies for the vehicles involved
- Drivers and passengers, including all observed injuries
- Narrative and diagram of the accident
- Names of law enforcement officers who investigated
The investigating officer must complete the accident report within ten days after the accident.
Short-Form Crash Reports
Police officers can complete a short-form crash report when they respond to an accident that does not require a long-form crash report. This will usually happen when an accident only causes property damage and the vehicles remain driveable.
For example, suppose that a car drove off the road into a fence. If the fence was worth more than $500, the driver must report the accident to the police. But the officer can choose to prepare a short-form crash report since no one was injured and the car remained driveable.
A short-form crash report contains everything in the long-form crash report except the narrative and diagram of the accident. Since the short-form crash report lacks the narrative and diagram, the officer usually completes the crash report at the accident scene.
In place of the short-form crash report, Florida law allows officers to use an insurance exchange form supplied by their agencies. Each driver or property owner fills out an insurance exchange form and swaps it with the others involved in the accident.
Using a Crash Report
A traffic crash report can provide essential information for your insurance claim or lawsuit. It can also verify your version of events to rebut assertions by the insurer or at-fault driver.
The crash report serves as a neutral account of the circumstances of your accident. It may be your best evidence of fault in your injury claim. Contact a personal injury lawyer for help with your personal injury claim or assistance obtaining your crash report.