Reporting a Car Accident in Alabama
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If you should ever find yourself in a car accident, a formal police report can provide valuable information that ultimately can protect your rights and your insurance rates. However, the police are not automatically dispatched for every accident – only those with significant injury and damage.
Even when there are no injuries and the damage is minimal, a police report can help you when filing a claim with your insurance company. It can also protect you from any false allegations from the other party, and can be submitted as evidence in case you need to go to court.
Do You Have to Report an Accident?
The state of Alabama requires drivers to file a Safety Responsibility Accident or SR-31 form when an accident causes injury, death, or property damages totaling more than $250 dollars. This applies even if you’re an out-of-state driver visiting Alabama.
This form must be filed within 30 days of the accident with the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
Typically, the police report is used to assign fault to one of the driver’s involved. However, there are instances when fault is not assigned. This is usually when weather and faulty road conditions have caused the accident. Other times an independent force is the culprit, such as lighting striking a tree, and the tree falling directly into a busy roadway. For instances like these, an SR-31 can really help.
How to Report an Accident
The very first thing you should do when you’re involved in a collision is pull over to the side of the road where vehicles are not obscuring traffic. If this isn’t possible, most likely the accident has caused someone significant injury and they need immediate medical attention, so please dial 9-1-1. The police will arrive, assess the scene and create the accident report.
It’s important to remember that you must file an SR-31 form whenever someone has been injured or when the car has clearly been damaged by the collision.
Getting an SR-31 accident report form is easy. You can download the form from the official Alabama Law Enforcement Agency at alea.gov. You can also get this form from the local police or state trooper’s office.
Even though there’s a 30-day deadline to submit the SR-31 form, it’s best to submit it as soon after your accident as possible. By filing immediately, the details are fresh in your mind, making you less likely to forget important details.
How to Get a Police Report for an Accident
In our digital age, getting official reports from government agencies has never been easier. This is especially true for police reports. You can obtain and file a vehicle crash report on the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency website, alea.gov. You can also choose to go into the local police office to get your accident report.
Unfortunately, these reports are not free – there’s a $17 fee (they accept all major credit and debit cards). You will need your driver’s license, name of the driver involved or the crash report number. All online crash reports are accessible for up to 7 days after your first viewing, so do try to print them up as soon as possible. This will save you from having to pay the processing fee twice for the same report.
Tips on Reporting a Car Accident to Your Insurance Company
Informing your insurance company that you’ve been in an accident is required for most collisions. Therefore, it’s essential you collect the personal information of the other party involved. Unless an ambulance is rushing you off to the hospital to save your life, be sure to get the following information before you leave the scene:
- The driver and/or owner’s name
- The names and addresses of any passengers
- The make, model, and year of all vehicles involved
- The names and addresses of any witnesses
- Photographs of the scene, including damage to the vehicles and injuries
To better protect yourself, you should discuss the details of the collision solely with the police and your insurer. Wait no later than a day to report the accident to your insurance carrier. By not reporting the incident, it could be deemed as failure to cooperate and this can cost you in court.
Do You Have to Report an Accident to Your Insurance?
There are some instances where reporting an accident to your insurance can have negative and unnecessary consequences on your insurance rates. You can opt not to contact your carrier if:
- The accident involves only one car (yours)
- You’re not injured or can pay for your medical expenses
- You can afford to pay the cost of repairs or the total cost is close to or less than your deductible.
Contact Us Today
Alabama Code Section 6-2-83 sets a two-year statute of limitations for pursuing personal injury cases from car accidents. The clock starts from the date the accident occurred, so it’s important not to wait to begin the reporting process.
Pittman, Dutton & Hellums has decades of experience and a proven track record of success in handling car accident cases. We are here to help injured victims and their families throughout the state of Alabama. To find out how we can secure the compensation you deserve, reach out to us today for a free case evaluation.
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