For car accident victims in South Carolina, obtaining a copy of a police report is important. This report can help support your claim against an irresponsible driver so that you can recover compensative damages. But how can you get a police report for a car accident in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, there are multiple ways for victims to get a copy of a police report for a car accident. You can request a collision report online through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles portal. Victims can send a request by mail or in person by filling out the proper forms. Regardless of how you choose to request a police report, it’s important to do so. That report can benefit your case against a negligent driver and help your attorney represent your interests in a lawsuit.
Our South Carolina car accident attorneys can use the details in a police report to recover compensation for your injuries. For help getting a copy of a police report, call the South Carolina car accident attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 918-5928.
How Can You Get a Police Report for a Car Accident in South Carolina?
Wherever a car accident happens in South Carolina, victims can request the corresponding police report from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV). Accident victims can obtain a report in one of three ways: online, by mail, or in person. Regardless of how you choose to request a copy of a collision report, several important steps are involved.
Perhaps the simplest way to get a police report for a car accident is by visiting the SCDMV’s collision report portal. To request a report, victims must provide their driver’s license number and their Social Security number. You must also provide your date of birth and information about the accident.
Reports cost $6 each. Within a few days of police officers completing a collision report, it should be available on the SCDMV website. Reports for accidents that occurred before March 22, 2012 are not available online, but that might not impact you. After all, the statute of limitations to file a car accident lawsuit in South Carolina is three years. Requesting a report online is simple and quick.
South Carolina car accident victims can request a copy of a collision report from the SCDMV by mail. To do so, you must complete a Request for Copy Collision Report, also known as SCDMV Form FR-50. This form requires a significant amount of information, which may not be known to victims. The Columbia car accident attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers can help you complete this form.
The form must be completed twice, something that car accident victims may not know. Form FR-50 requires information about the report itself, like the identification number. The police officers who completed the report at the accident scene might have given you that number. If not, your attorney can help you request a report by mail. You must send payment along with two copies of Form FR-50. It’s important to note that the SCDMV does not accept cash by mail, so victims must send a money order or check for $6.
If you were injured in a car accident in South Carolina and want a copy of the corresponding police report, you can request it in person. Car accident victims can either visit a local branch of the SCDMV or the necessary police department. Victims need to complete two copies of Form FR-50 and provide $6 in payment to request a report in person. When requested in person, victims can use cash to pay for a copy of a collision report.
When Are Police Reports Ready After a Car Accident in South Carolina?
Generally, it will take some time for a police report to be written by the responding officer, and then after they file the report, it will take a few more days before it becomes available through online systems. An officer must file their report within 24 hours after the investigation ends under S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1270. In most cases, the report will be ready and available for your viewing within 15 days of the accident.
How Much Does a Copy of a Police Report Cost in South Carolina?
Generally, it costs $6 to get a copy of the police report in your case. This fee mostly covers the cost of processing and storing reports like this, as well as the cost of ink and paper. Usually, this cost applies no matter how you get the report, but the accepted payment methods might differ (as discussed above).
Who Can Get a Police Report in a South Carolina Car Accident Case?
Getting a copy of your police report can be an extra step after a car accident, and it might not be on your list of priorities. Especially if you are working on recovering from serious injuries, filing forms with the police or DMV might not be something you are looking forward to. Fortunately, South Carolina law allows nearly anyone to request a copy of a police report, so you can certainly get help filing for a copy of the report in your case.
S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-1275, allows anyone to submit a written request for a report and get a copy of the police report. Many states only allow drivers involved in the crash and their attorneys or insurance companies to get reports, but South Carolina leaves access to these public records quite open. That means you can have a friend or loved one fill out the paperwork for you – or you can have our South Carolina car accident lawyers do it for you.
Fortunately, there is one restriction on getting police reports: no one can obtain a copy of the police report for “commercial solicitation purposes.” This means that lawyers, auto mechanics, or opportunistic businesses cannot mine new accident reports and contact the accident victims with advertising or junk mail.
Unfortunately, this also means that others might be able to get copies of your report, too. This could include employers or even the press.
Do You Have to File Your Own Accident Report After a South Carolina Car Crash?
If you call the police and they come and respond to the crash, they will file an accident report. If no one reports the accident to the police for some reason, you will have to do so on your own later by filing your own accident report. Section 56-5-1270 specifically says that this is only necessary if the accident involved death, injury, or at least $1,000 worth of damage and was not investigated by a police officer. If the police did investigate, then they will be required to file their own report within 24 hours, and you do not need to make an additional report.
How a Police Report for a Car Accident in South Carolina Can Help You
Getting a police report for a car accident in South Carolina can support your claim in a lawsuit against a responsible party. While police reports aren’t considered evidence, they can contain vital details that help your attorney prove a driver’s negligence. But, to get a police report, you have to call the police.
Provides Basic Facts
While South Carolina residents can inform the police of damages after a car accident, it’s best to call them to the scene. Alerting officers to a collision can ensure the creation of a police report. This report can hold important pieces of information that can be beneficial to your case against a negligent driver. Collision reports contain all of the basics, including the place and time of an accident and the involved parties’ information. Officers can note damage to property and injuries to victims within a report. In addition to basic information, these reports can also contain crucial details that might have otherwise been overlooked.
Contains Important Details
For example, a police report may note another driver’s negligence. If they were impaired at the time of an accident, officers might test their drug or alcohol levels. This information will be noted and can help the South Carolina personal injury attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway prove a defendant’s negligence. South Carolina police officers can also interview eyewitnesses to the accident to compile a sequence of events. If others noticed another driver’s negligence, that could benefit your case. Without a police report, your Sumter car accident lawyer may not have access to such information.
Points to Evidence
Of course, having the details is one thing. Knowing how to use them to a client’s advantage is another thing altogether. The South Carolina car accident lawyers at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers can use the information within a police report to support your claim against a negligent driver. While police reports aren’t considered evidence, they can point to evidence. Knowing the exact location of an accident can help your attorney discover possible security camera footage. Learning if a defendant was impaired can point to their negligence. It’s important to call the police to an accident scene so you can get a collision report.
Can You Use a Police Report as Evidence in Court for a South Carolina Car Accident Lawsuit?
As mentioned, police reports can point to evidence, but aren’t considered evident in their own right. The South Carolina Rules of Evidence are quite strict with regard to what evidence can actually be used in a lawsuit, and other laws – specifically S.C. Code Ann. § 56-12-1290 – prevent police reports from being entered into evidence to prove negligence. However, there are other ways to use the report in court.
Bar on Use of Police Reports as Evidence
For something to be admissible as evidence in a court case in South Carolina, it first needs to be relevant. Any evidence is relevant under Rule 401 of the Rules of Evidence if it has a “tendency to” show that a fact is more or less “probable.” This is a low bar, and police reports would certainly be relevant to a case about the same accident.
However, a report is a written statement made out of court, not a statement a witness makes on the stand under oath. That makes it hearsay, which is inadmissible as evidence under Rules 801 and 802. However, there is an exception for things like recorded recollections (as this is a record of the officer’s memory), regularly conducted business (police regularly investigate accidents and write reports), and public records/reports (this police report is a public record) under Rule 803.
Even so, § 56-12-1290 bars a police report from being used specifically for the purpose of supplying evidence of fault. However, you might be able to use it for other purposes.
Section 56-12-1290 specifically makes a carve-out for police to be able to refer to their reports during testimony so they can “refresh their recollection of” what happened. This is a common way to use inadmissible evidence like records and notes. In fact, other people might be able to refer to the report to refresh their recollection as well.
To “refresh” one’s recollection, they must have an independent memory of the events of the accident in the first place. You cannot have a witness who was not there or does not remember the accident get up on the stand and simply read the report and then relay the details. That means a police officer still cannot use the report to “remember” facts and events they didn’t witness before they got to the scene.
“Impeaching” Witnesses and Testimony
In court cases, impeaching a witness means showing the court that what they are saying might not be true. You can impeach a witness by introducing previous statements they made or things they wrote down. If a witness or the other driver made a statement to the officer, and the officer wrote that statement down in their report, then you might be able to use the quote from the report if they testify to something different on the stand. For example, if the driver told the officer, “I only had one beer,” but now testifies that they were sober, you can use the statement to impeach them.
Similarly, since the officer wrote the report, you might be able to use the report to impeach the officer if they say something that contradicts what they wrote down.
Our Attorneys Can Help You Get a Police Report for a Car Accident in South Carolina
Obtaining a copy of a police report can help you recover the damages you deserve after a car accident in South Carolina. To learn more, call the South Carolina car accident attorneys at Burriss Ridgeway Injury Lawyers today at (803) 918-5928.