After an auto accident in Tampa, the police will provide you with a driver’s exchange and an accident report. These are two very important but different documents.
Acquiring both these documents is critical in a successful personal injury claim, but also may be required for property damage repairs. In this blog, our Tampa car accident lawyers have made it easy to understand.
What is a Driver’s Exchange?
At the accident scene, a police officer will likely have printed out a small piece of paper (in their cruiser printer) and given it to you. This is called a ‘driver’s exchange of information.
It is not the same as an accident report, which is a different document entirely.
A driver’s exchange is used to inform the people involved in the accident of:
- The case number
- The name of the vehicle owner
- The driver and insurance information of all parties informed
Why is a Driver’s Exchange Important?
You need a driver’s exchange to contact the appropriate insurance company to either gain compensation for your injuries or get the damage repair money for your vehicle.
If you don’t have this information, it can be very difficult to proceed with your case as you won’t know where to start. However, if that has happened (like in Hit and Run accidents) to you, our Tampa personal injury lawyers will work hard to investigate who caused your accident.
It can also be helpful during your personal injury claim investigations, as the case number can be used to help you investigate further.
Read Related: Is It Worth Getting a Tampa Car Accident Lawyer?
What is an Accident Report?
An accident report, often called ‘the full accident report’, is more important than the driver’s exchange.
If you’ve been in any type of accident involving injury or property damage of $500 or more, then the police must fill it out in full and send it to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of the crash.
The accident report is usually around 4-5 pages. However, they tend to vary in quality and depth of information. If you had a good officer that took care in their investigation, it will also list the citations given.
An accident report for a car accident in Tampa should include:
- The time and date of the accident
- The location of the accident
- A description of the vehicle involved
- The name and address of the parties involved, including:
- ID of the vehicles
- The name and addresses of any witnesses
- Information of the law enforcement officer investigating the crash, including:
- Budge number
- Law enforcement agency
- The names of the insurance company for each party involved in the crash.
Why Is an Accident Report Important?
An accident report is critical to reveal information about how the accident occurred and what the state of the crash scene was. In a personal injury claim, evidence is essential to prove to the insurance company how your injuries were caused and determine fault.
The report becomes especially important if you were transported to a hospital or the officer didn’t speak to you at the scene.
An insurance adjuster can review the accident report and speak to their insured client. They’ll also assist you in finding the appropriate property damage, location, collision center or Auto Shop.
How Our Tampa Injury Lawyers Use an Accident Report
As Tampa personal injury lawyers, it is also critical in helping us file your claim. It provides us with a very strong piece of evidence to prove liability and the link to your injuries. However, in some cases, we will use our resources to obtain independent evidence such as through crash accident reconstruction experts.
Our Tampa personal injury law gets these accident reports online. We’re subscribed to a service that notifies us instantly when we type in a case number (provided in the driver’s exchange).
Once the report is ready, we’ll get a notification and obtain them as soon as possible. This can give us a real head start on the competition and the insurance company. We’ll be reviewing the document and preparing the case before they’re even opened the file.
What is the Accident Report Privilege?
Due to the potential impartiality or unfairness of a law enforcement officer, Florida has a special reporting exemption known as the ‘Accident Report Privilege’.
This privilege encourages drivers, passengers and witnesses to be as honest and truthful as possible while providing a witness statement or accident report. It also protects their 5th Amendment right to not self-incriminate.
“Each crash report made by a person involved in a crash and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing a crash report required by this section shall be without prejudice to the individual so reporting. Such report or statement may not be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal.”
However, Florida courts have ruled limitations to that privilege on many occasions. For example, if a driver admits that they fell asleep at the wheel to an officer it may be admissible in a civil proceeding.
It also does not exempt you from your statements being used in criminal investigations.
For this reason, it is usually advised that you do not admit fault during your crash report. It is often a bad idea anyway, as your perception of events may be clouded by adrenaline and the reality that is revealed later may be very different.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in Tampa, FL
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Tampa, Florida, then we welcome you to contact our Tampa car accident lawyers for a free consultation. We regularly help accident victims acquire the accident report that proves critical in winning a satisfactory settlement.
Sean McQuaid and Jonathon Douglas are award-winning Personal Injury Lawyers with vast experience, a proven track record, a strong reputation and impressive resources. We believe we provide the strongest chance of winning the maximum possible settlement to rebuild your life.