Obtaining an Accident Report in West Virginia

          After an accident, whether there are injuries or not, one of the most important pieces of documentation you will need to get is the accident report.  The accident report, or sometimes called an accident exchange form or even a police report, is filed by the responding law enforcement agency.  Whether it be the Harrison County Sheriff, the State Police or a local officer, the report will be submitted within a few days from the accident depending on the workload of the officer.  

Accident Report vs. Exchange Form

          It is essential to know and understand the accident reporting laws in West Virginia.  It is also necessary to understand how to obtain a report and what to expect when reading one.  If a police officer is called to the scene, generally they will be the one to file the report.  It is important to note that depending on the amount of damage and if there are injuries, the responding officer may choose to submit an accident exchange form.  An accident exchange form does not have all of the same information as a full accident report and reduces the amount of paperwork an officer has to complete after responding to the accident.  Do not be upset if the officer chooses to file an exchange form instead of a full accident report, just be glad that the accident didn’t require the additional information.

          A complete accident report will reflect some things that are necessary to not only file a claim with the insurance company but to also assist in determining who was at fault.  A police report will describe what happened and who was involved.  It will also include information on vehicle positions after the accident and where the damage was on each vehicle.  It will also list contact information and any insurance information for the parties involved.  The report should also have statements from each driver along with statements from any potential witnesses.  The report will also assign liability and notate if any citations were given as a result of the investigation.

Get a Copy of the Accident Report

          Getting a copy of the accident report is important when filing an insurance claim.  The insurance company is going to want a copy to help it determine who was at fault and who should be held liable for the accident.  Many decisions are based on the report, and no payments will be made to the auto repair shop or any medical provider until the liability is determined.  It might be a good idea to get a copy of the police report yourself to not only have the information but to move the process along with the insurance company.

          Requesting a copy of the accident report can be different for each jurisdiction.  Some city police require you to seek one in person, and some allow you to request one over the phone.  Each request, regardless of where it is, will require a fee of some sort.  The cost can be from $20.00 up to several hundred dollars depending on the number of pages, pictures and other attachments are with the report.  It is best that you call the records office for the jurisdiction and ask them their process.  West Virginia does not have a central database that can be accessed by local offices, so it is crucial that you know who responded to your accident.

          Once you have determined who filed the report and had contacted that office to get a copy, you will then either need to go in person or send a written request with a check to that office.  Depending on if the report is complete, you will then be provided with a copy of your report.  Immediately make a copy of the report to present to the insurance company and possibly your attorney.  

How Does the Police Report Affect My Claim

          As stated above, the police report has the information needed for the insurance company to determine who is at fault.  It also has the information that can be used to remind fading memories or to counter changing stories.  As the official record, the police report will provide a foundation to build up your claim.  Keep in mind; we have seen insurance companies still deny liability even when the police report is very clear. 

Denied Liability but Accident Report is Clear

          If an insurance company does deny liability, even though the police report states otherwise, immediately contact an attorney.  An attorney can help you begin to establish who was liable, building upon the evidence provided in the report.  Never let an insurance company get away with denying liability if you genuinely believe that the other party was at fault.               

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