In Florida, a police officer needs to investigate a motor vehicle accident that occurs when:
- It involves the death or injury of anyone involved in the crash.
- A driver has left the scene of the accident.
- It involves a commercial motor vehicle.
- Rendered a vehicle inoperable to the degree that towing it from the location of the accident is necessary.
With their investigation, they also need to issue a long-form crash report to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) within ten days of the completion of their investigation. This report is not only needed when an individual files a claim against their insurance policy but can also contain valuable evidence when a person has been seriously injured and wishes to seek compensation through the personal injury claims process.
If you’ve sustained injuries in a car accident in Orlando and need a copy of your police report, there are a few ways to obtain one, including requesting the report online or hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who can procure the report on your behalf. Here is a look at your options if you need to get a car accident report in Orlando.
What Is a Long-Form Crash Report, and Why Do You Need One?
As explained by FLHSMV, those involved must file either a short-form or long-form crash report after a car accident. A short-form crash report is required when the damages for either vehicle involved in an accident cost at least $500, but neither vehicle was a commercial vehicle, no one was injured, all parties remained at the scene until the officer arrived and took down their information, and neither vehicle required a tow.
Instead of providing a short-form crash report, the officer can give each driver involved an exchange-of-information form for them to complete.
A long-form crash report is required when an accident involves injury or death, commercial vehicles, or vehicles are inoperable.
- The date, time, and location of the crash
- A description of the vehicles involved
- The names and addresses of all parties involved, including both drivers and passengers
- Identification of which vehicle each occupant was in at the time of the crash
- The names and addresses of any witnesses
- The name, badge number, and law enforcement agency of the officer investigating the crash
- The names of the respective insurance companies for each driver involved in the crash
These forms also often include a narrative from the officer regarding the investigation of how the accident occurred. If the officer cited anyone for violating traffic laws, that information also would generally be provided.
The officer must submit the long-form crash reports to FLHSMV, and the law enforcement agency that provided the investigation must also retain a copy. For 60 days following the crash, the information in the report is only available for specific people, including the parties involved in the accident, their insurers, and their lawyer.
Insurance providers require crash reports to provide coverage to their own insured through their personal injury protection policies or when an individual suffered a serious injury due to another driver’s negligence and wishes to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy. In addition, the injured party’s attorney can use the information in the report as they investigate the accident on behalf of their client.
The report can help determine liability and insurance resources and obtain the names of witnesses and other information that will lead to the evidence needed to prove the claim.
Getting a Car Accident Report in Orlando
Individuals involved in crashes in Orlando can obtain a copy of the car accident report online, either through the Orlando Police Department or FLHSMV. State law requires those requesting a copy of a crash report to pay a fee of $10 plus a $2 convenience fee for each financial transaction.
Who Can Obtain a Copy of a Crash Report?
The personally identifying information in police reports is confidential and exempt from disclosure to the public for 60 days following the accident. During that time, to obtain a copy of the car accident report, you must be one of the people involved in the crash, their insurance provider, or their lawyer. Only the reports of crashes within the City of Orlando are available through the Orlando Police Department.
Obtaining a Report from the Orlando Police Department
Individuals involved in all crashes since 2011 can request a copy of their crash report through the department’s online LexisNexis Police Reports service. Most reports are available online within three to five business days after the crash.
To obtain the report, you must provide:
- The case number
- The date of the crash
- The driver’s name
- A credit or debit card to remit the $10 fee
LexisNexis will provide the crash report online immediately following payment.
Obtaining a Report from FLHSMV
Individuals involved in Orlando accidents can also obtain a car accident report through the FLHSMV by visiting their online portal, providing the required information, and providing a credit card number for the fee. Reports are available online immediately, and the requestor will receive a download link in their email.
The requestor needs to download the document within 48 hours of the request. The department notes that crash reports will not necessarily be available through the portal’s search tool until at least ten days after the accident, as that’s how long the investigating officer has to submit the report to the department.
An Attorney: Another Option for Obtaining Your Orlando Crash Report
In Florida, individuals injured in a car accident generally have to seek initial coverage of medical expenses and wage loss associated with their injury through their provider of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy, regardless of fault. If the injury was the result of someone else’s carelessness or recklessness, and the injury either meets the state’s serious injury threshold or results in costs that exceed the limits of their PIP policy, they can seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy.
Car accident claims involve complex processes that typically include:
- An insurance provider who wants to protect their bottom line by reducing or even eliminating payouts on claims for injuries caused by their insured.
- The high-powered attorneys that represent insurance providers and their liable insured.
- The right of the claimant to use the civil court system to file a lawsuit if the at-fault party’s insurance provider refuses to pay the claim.
An experienced personal injury lawyer has a crucial role in the success of a car accident injury claim, as they understand the law, the process, and the tactics commonly used by insurers to devalue claims. One of the many services that a car accident lawyer provides is a thorough investigation of the car accident.
This investigation is unlike the one performed by the police officer, which they conducted to determine if either driver violated state or local traffic laws. It is also different from the investigation by an insurance company’s claims adjuster to determine whether their insured was liable for causing harm to another and whether their policy’s coverage extends to the filed claim.
Instead, a car accident lawyer’s investigation is conducted for their client to learn important information about their case, starting with the name of the at-fault driver and their insurance provider.
The legal representative of an individual involved in the crash can obtain a crash report for their client, even during the 60-day period in which the identifying information contained in the report is confidential.
Is It Better to Have an Attorney Obtain the Report or Request It On Your Own?
Having the report on hand when you attend a free case evaluation with an experienced attorney or decide to hire one to assist you with your claim can save some time and jump-start the investigation process. However, if you cannot obtain a copy of the report, do not despair. Your attorney has experience requesting crash reports, and they know the process.
In addition to having a copy of the crash report when meeting with an attorney to discuss your case, other helpful information to have on hand includes:
- Photos of the accident scene, including all four sides of each vehicle involved, skid marks and debris on the roadway, or even photos that depict the weather and traffic conditions at the time of the accident.
- Information from your employer about your hourly wages and the amount of time you missed due to your injury.
- Documentation showing expenses incurred from the accident, such as medical bills or vehicle repairs.
- Information from your physician, documenting your injury, the treatments provided, and the existence of any permanent injuries that will impair your ability to earn an income in the future.
Other Services an Attorney Can Provide as You Seek Compensation
Aside from providing the at-fault driver’s name, address, and insurance information, the police report can contain other important information that your lawyer will want to look at as they build your case. This includes the names and addresses of anyone who witnessed the accident. Eyewitnesses often provide important testimony regarding the actions taken just before the accident and about the behavior of those involved in the accident at the scene.
The crash report also commonly contains a narrative from the police officer who investigated the accident and that officer’s name and badge number so concerned parties can interview them. Additionally, there will be information regarding charges or citations against any drivers, which can help prove liability.
However, car accident lawyers aren’t building a case solely on the information in the accident report. They are also gathering documentation from their client to show the nature of the injuries they suffered, the amount of wages lost, and the financial and psychological impacts of the injury to establish a value to their client’s claim.
They are managing communication with the at-fault party’s insurance provider to prevent the claimant from falling victim to the tactics claims adjusters use to devalue the claim and also to negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates their client for their injuries.
Most car accident claimants in Florida have four years from their injury to sue to recover compensation if the insurance provider fails to compensate the claim fairly. A car accident attorney must manage how long it takes to prepare the case to ensure that their client files their claim within the statute of limitations.
Attorneys are also responsible for ensuring that their clients have the information needed to make decisions about their cases that reflect their best interests. During the pre-trial phase, the attorney will continue settlement negotiations while deposing witnesses, preparing evidence exhibits, answering and filing motions, helping to select a jury, and attending pre-trial conferences.
If a settlement agreement is not in place by the time the trial date arrives, the attorney will present the case in court, telling their client’s story to a judge or jury.
After the claim, the attorney will also assist their client in receiving their compensation and settling any liens placed on the award by health care providers and other creditors who offered treatment or services pertaining to the claimant’s injury.