In the days following a Miami traffic accident, your idea of what happened may change or grow fuzzy. You might mix up details or forget things. It’s important to phone the police after an accident to receive an accurate write-up of the event. The officer will write down the names and contact information of everyone involved, including any eyewitnesses.

He or she will also record facts such as which direction both vehicles were heading, how fast they were going, and how the crash happened. A police report can be a great asset to anyone trying to file a personal injury claim or reach a settlement with an insurance company. Here are the steps for getting a copy of your car accident report in Florida:

  1. Call in Your Accident

Florida law makes calling the police after a car accident mandatory if it caused bodily injury, death, or property damage over $500. Anyone involved in a hit-and-run or an accident with an intoxicated driver must also report the crash to the police. You must report the crash before anyone leaves the scene. When in doubt, call the police. It can always help to have an official police report of the accident, even if it was minor. If for some reason the officer doesn’t complete a report, you have ten days from the date of the accident to file your own crash report. Keep a copy of your self-filed report for your records.

  1. Talk to the Police Officer

It is the police officer’s job to conduct an investigation of the crash and jot down notes to write an official report later. The officer will record personal information as well as car insurance details. Before you or the officer leaves the scene of the accident, ask the officer for your case card or drivers exchange. These are documents that will have your case number or agency report number. If you leave and do not have your report number, contact your nearest Florida Highway Patrol station. The phone number for the Miami-Dade FHP is (305) 470-2500.

  1. Wait for the Release of the Report

The police officer will typically write up the report within a week after an accident. Section 316.066 of the Florida Statutes outlines how citizens must go about requesting traffic accident reports. The statute orders a 60-day wait period before police can release traffic crash reports to the general public. If you were directly involved in the accident, however, you can have access to the report immediately or within seven to ten business days.

The statute outlines other specific parties who may have early access to reports, such as legal representatives and insurance agents. It is a third-degree felony charge in Florida to unlawfully obtain confidential police reports or to disclose confidential personal information.

  1. Request a Copy of the Report

Obtaining a copy of your police report is important, as it will often name who the officer believed to be at fault for the collision. The report will also have the date, time, and location of the crash, eyewitness information, the badge number of the investigating officer, and the names of both parties’ insurance companies. The police report can serve as evidence of someone else’s fault or help a plaintiff prove the facts of the case.

The easiest way to get your report is to call the local Police Department. You can mail in a formal request to the Records Unit or make a phone call. Check your local department to see if online requests are an option. More than 150 police agencies throughout Florida use BuyCrash.com to offer police reports online. There may be a fee for this service, but it could be a simple way to receive a copy of your report. If you have issues obtaining your report or using it for your claim, talk to a Miami car accident attorney.