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Police reports of car accidents may be important to the claim

It is nearly a universal procedure in New Hampshire and other states for auto accident victims, their attorneys and insurers to obtain copies of police accident reports from the local police department that has jurisdiction. The state Department of Safety recently issued an interpretation of the law that requires all requests for police accident reports to go instead through the state agency. For those wishing to expedite the processing of claims for damages from car accidents, the local police department will generally be a much quicker source than the state agency.

Traditionally, when the accident occurs, the local police come to the scene and question the victims and any witnesses. Generally, if the accident occurs on a state road or interstate highway, the state police would assume the task of investigating and reporting on the accident. When the investigating officer goes back to the station, he or she will usually make up an accident report on the applicable form.

The officers generally do that by reference to their recorded notes taken at the accident scene. Each officer and each police department may have different variations on the procedure but generally it will follow that pattern. The police report will often be the first clue to determining who was at fault.

That is why insurance companies and the other participants in the claims process are interested in quickly obtaining copies of the report. The insurer must make decisions quickly on whether to pay certain claims or how to treat them. The police report may be important to the insurer's decision, which will often depend on conclusions and observations made by the officers, including whether any citations were issued.

In New Hampshire, confusion was spread by the Department of Safety's decision to take over the processing of accident reports regarding car accidents. Participants in the claims process complained of the longer time delays associated with the state agency's service. Consequently, the state legislature is pushing a bill that will make it clear that the traditional procedure will continue to be the prevailing manner of obtaining the important police report and investigative documents going forward.

Source:, "New Hampshire Bill Returns Power to Local Police to Share Crash Reports", Kathleen Ronayne, May 4, 2017

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