how long can you file a police report after an accident

When you’re involved in a car accident in Washington State, it’s crucial to know the ins and outs of filing an accident report. Understandably, many accident victims want to know, How long do you have to file a police report after an accident? If the police do not respond to the accident scene, you have only four days to report the accident yourself. Adhering to the time limit is crucial should you pursue a personal injury claim for your damages. 

For a free consultation with an experienced Yakima, Washington car accident lawyer, please call (509) 866-4166 or send us an online message today.

How Long Do You Have to Report a Car Accident?

If the police respond to the accident scene, they will file an accident report and you won’t need to do it yourself. However, each driver is responsible for filing a report when the police don’t respond to the accident scene. Do not assume that the other driver filed, and you don’t need to report the accident. 

So how many days do you have to report an accident if the police don’t file a report? Washington State gives you only four days. Failure to file an accident report within the period could result in penalties and complications when filing an insurance claim.

When to File an Accident Report

There are specific circumstances when you must file an accident report in Washington State. 

These include:

  • When an injury or death results from the accident,
  • When property damage exceeds $1,000, and
  • When you cannot locate the owner of a vehicle involved in the accident (like when you hit a parked car).

The requirement to file an accident report is mandated by law. It applies to drivers, pedestrians, pedal cycle riders, and property owners involved in a vehicle collision within Washington State. 

Collision information will go on each driver’s record as well. Only the facts surrounding the collision are added to the report, not who was at fault. The report includes information about the collision date, vehicles involved, injuries, fatalities, and the accident report number. 

The Importance of Filing an Accident Report

Filing an accident report is critical for several reasons. For one, it can protect your rights. An accident report provides an official record of the incident, which can be helpful when filing an insurance claim.

Each insurance company will want a copy of the report, which will help expedite the claims process. It’s almost certain the other party will dispute your version of the accident. The police report is not a final determination of liability, but it can help support your case. 

Filing an accident report also helps improve road safety for everyone. You’re providing valuable data to local authorities, which can help identify and address recurring traffic issues.

Police Report vs. Accident Report 

While both police reports and accident reports document the details of a car accident, there are some key differences between the two. 

Who Files the Report 

A police offer creates a police report when attending the accident scene. In contrast, when police do not respond to the scene, drivers complete and file an accident report with the Washington State Patrol Records Section, which is linked with the Department of Motor Vehicles records. 

Information Included 

A police report typically contains more detailed information about the accident, such as the officer’s observations, witness statements, and any citations issued. On the other hand, an accident report primarily includes information about the drivers, vehicles, and insurance companies involved and a description of the accident.

Evidentiary Weight in Litigation 

While both reports might be admitted as evidence in legal proceedings or insurance claims, a police report may carry more weight. That’s because it’s an objective account from a law enforcement officer. However, an accident report is still valuable in providing an official incident record.

Our Yakima Car Accident Lawyers are ready to help. Please contact us by filling out the form below.

How to File a Washington State Accident Report?

The easiest way to file an accident report is to visit the Washington State Patrol website section for Online Motor Vehicle Collision Reporting (OMVCR). 

There are multiple sections that you must fill out, including: 

  • Date,
  • Details,
  • Location,
  • Conditions,
  • Units, 
  • Description,
  • Witness, and
  • Review. 

The portal will guide you through the process. Once you finalize all the fields on each section and hit submit, you’ll receive an accident report number. If you don’t want to use the online portal, request a Motor Vehicle Collision Report form from your local police or county sheriff and Washington State Patrol. You will mail that to: 

Washington State Patrol

Records Section

P.O. Box 42628

Olympia, WA 98504-2628

If the police responded and you want a copy of the police report they filed, you can request that from the Washington State Patrol Requests for Electronic Collision Records (WRECR). The online system lets you search by involved parties or the collision report number. 

Note: searching for records is free, but ordering a police report costs $10.50. 

Contact a Washington Car Accident Attorney 

Filing a personal injury claim for damages related to a car accident can be stressful and intimidating. If you’re searching online for answers to questions like, How long can you file a police report after an accident? Let an experienced Washington car accident lawyer help. 

At Kapuza Lighty, we understand how daunting personal injury claims can be. Let us review your case and help you move forward with pursuing compensation for your damages. We have years of experience helping clients to fight against Washington insurance companies. Please get in touch with our office online or call (509) 866-4166 to schedule a free consultation and learn more. 


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