In an Auto Accident? Get a Police Report!
The police report is oftentimes the first step in making a claim to the insurance company for an Oregon automobile accident. The accident report contains important information, including the exact location of the accident, names and addresses of everyone involved in the accident, name of vehicle owners, insurance information, and vehicle identification (VIN and license plate numbers). The reports will also detail whether any citations were issued.
The exact identity of the at-fault driver or the vehicle’s owner can be vital, particularly because of the short deadline to file notice of a potential claim in some cases. If the negligent driver was a state employee, police officer, public bus driver, or any other state, county or city employee, you may have file notice within 180 days (6 months) of the accident. Failure to file notice can forever bar you from recovering any money.
Contrary to popular belief, a police officer’s determination of fault is not binding on a court, nor is it even admissible. Unless the police officer saw the accident, any such evidence is merely the opinion of one person after the fact. Courts will not allow the officer’s opinion to take the place of the jury’s (or judge’s) determination of fault after listening to all of the evidence.
This is a wise decision—police officers who investigate the accident may not have full information at the time of their investigation. They may not have the opportunity to interview all witnesses or vehicle occupants, particularly if some of them are taken away via ambulance. So, even if the police give you a citation, or find you to be at fault for the collision, you may still have a good personal injury claim.
The report may be useful in another way, however. Even though the police officer’s description and decision about liability is not binding on a court, the other driver’s insurance company may consider it in determining whether their driver was at fault, or whether they have a chance to argue against liability. Oftentimes, a police report that paints their driver at fault can lead straight to settlement discussions.
If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer should obtain this report for you. If you want to order your own citation or police report, you should provide as much information as you can about the accident, including the date, time, location, and names of people involved. Unfortunately, these reports are not available online. You can contact these entities:
Oregon State Police
Attn: Central Records Section
255 Capitol Street, NE, 4th Floor
Salem, Oregon 97310
$10.00 fee per case file
Request form must be signed, mailed and printed
Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles Headquarters
1905 Lana Ave., NE
Salem, Oregon 97314
$8.50 fee per report
Automobile accidents can be stressful. If you were hurt because of someone else’s negligence, please contact an attorney as soon as possible. We can help you to identify if there are any deadlines, and we can take care of all steps to filing a claim or lawsuit, including obtaining motor vehicle accident reports on your behalf. Give us a call at 1-541-617-0555, or fill out our internet Contact form on the right side of the page.