Reporting an Auto Accident

Filing a police reportIf you are ever involved in an auto accident, it’s crucial to be prepared to act responsibly and in line with state law. No matter the severity of the accident, or who was the at-fault driver, reporting an auto accident can protect you—and it’s the law.

Colorado requires all auto accidents to be reported immediately. Call the police after the accident and be prepared to give a statement of what happened. If a police officer isn’t involved, report the auto accident using the forms provided by the Colorado DMV or the online crash report provided by the Colorado State Patrol. Sometimes, police will show up at the scene of the accident, and other times they will not. It’s useful to prepare for both of these circumstances prior to getting in an auto accident.

An Official Police Report

Reporting an auto accident means reporting the accident to the police and filing a report. This can be as simple as calling 911 after an accident and waiting with your vehicle until the responding officer arrives. Not only is it the law to report a car accident, but having a police report will be invaluable to proving negligence and collecting the compensation you deserve after an accident.

What Does a Police Report Look Like?

An official police report is created by the responding police officer who was sent to the accident scene. This police accident report is a summary of information about the collision, containing both facts related to the accident and the investigating officer’s opinions about what happened.

It’s a police procedure after a car accident to record the date, time, and location of the collision, contact information for all parties involved, information for witnesses, vehicle damage, weather, roadway and lighting conditions at the scene, statements from the involved parties and witnesses, necessary citations, and his or her opinion about the cause of the collision.

Collect a business card from the responding officer if you can—if you ever need to access the police report after the accident, call the phone number on the business card.

An Unofficial Police Report

Can I File a Police Report After an Accident?

There are many car accidents each day, and there are limited police officers available. So, when a police officer is not dispatched to the scene of the accident, one or more parties involved in the accident can create an unofficial report. Police will show up at the scene of an accident if there are fatalities or major injuries, if there was a hit-and-run, if public property was damaged, or if any party was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, if you are in a crash that doesn’t fit one of these categories, don’t assume the police won’t come if you call; unless law enforcement has broadcast that they are on “cold reporting” (meaning they will only respond to the above list of crash types). It’s still important to report the crash by calling 911 immediately. Cold Reporting is described in greater detail below.

When filing an unofficial police report (oftentimes called a “cold report”), include everything that a police officer would, record witness statements and contact information, record a personal written statement of what happened, record any injuries and take pictures of the accident and damaged vehicles.

After an Accident

After an accident, stop and make sure everyone involved is not injured. If anyone is severely injured, call an ambulance right away. Never leave the scene of the accident. Pull off of the road and be aware of passing traffic and any other potential dangers. Do not panic.

If you hit an unattended vehicle, it is required that you make an effort to locate the owner of the vehicle, but if you cannot find the owner, leave a note including your name, contact information, and a brief description of what happened.

How long after a car accident can you file a claim? Right away! And unless you are arrested after the accident, the police report will not show up on your record.

Why Is a Police Report Important?

When thinking about the importance of a police report, remember that an official, third-party report is always going to be seen as more substantial and trustworthy than the opinion and stories of either of the involved parties. A police report is important to have in order to establish the facts and circumstances of the accident. No matter the severity of the accident, major or minor, a police report can protect you from the other party coming after you with unfounded claims related to the accident. It can also assist you when you need to file a claim to collect compensation for your injuries and for damages.

What do I do if the police report is wrong? You can dispute a police report, but the officer will only alter the report if he or she is provided with strong evidence that the report information is false.

What Is Cold Reporting?

Under Colorado state law you are required to immediately report all auto accidents you are in to the proper police authority. However, during inclement weather your local law enforcement agency may go on “Accident Alert” or “Cold Report.” These laws are in place to help law enforcement officers meet public demand for assistance when needed the most. As such, Colorado has enacted “Cold Reporting” or “Accident Alert” to assist police forces who are overwhelmed with the number of traffic accidents. This status enables you to report a minor traffic accident after the fact without being penalized.

Cold Reporting Requirements

Major cities in Colorado, like Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora, and the Colorado State Patrol have set a list of conditions you must meet to qualify for Cold Reporting an auto accident. You may file a Cold Report for a minor auto accident in the following situation:

  1. CSPD or your local law enforcement agency is on Accident Alert;
  2. None of the involved parties are injured or deceased;
  3. The auto accident is not an alleged hit-and-run;
  4. No drugs or alcohol are involved in the accident;
  5. There is no damage to any public property; and
  6. All drivers agree that the accident is minor in nature and exchange insurance information.

How to Cold Report

If you are in an accident that meets the above conditions, you may file an accident report online or you may download the report and mail to the Colorado Motor Vehicle Division. Throughout Colorado and in major cities like Denver or Colorado Springs, you may also go to a CSPD substation and fill out the report there. Please note that CSPD is prohibited from accepting those accident reports. Accordingly, Colorado state law requires all drivers involved in the accident to file their own report.

If you are unsure whether the area your accident occurred in was on Accident Alert or not, you can call the local law enforcement agency to determine if Cold Reporting was in effect. If you are in an accident that does not meet the conditions above, you must call local law enforcement immediately. Drivers must remain on the scene, and there must be a comprehensive police report filed. Even when Cold Reporting an auto accident, you should not forget to document any damages your vehicle has sustained.

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