Although an attorney makes a case much easier for an accident victim, the victim can choose to handle the case without an attorney. The victim will need to know how to get a copy of the police report, order video surveillance footage, and file his or her own complaint.
Requesting a Copy of a Police Report
A police report is generated by the officer who came to the scene of the accident or the station where the accident was reported. It contains a summary of important information, such as:
- Identifying information for the drivers involved and witnesses
- Weather, lighting, and roadway conditions at the scene
- Points of damage on the vehicles involved
- Citations or violations of the law
A copy of the police report is helpful to insurance companies when doing their evaluation and helps hospitals determine the severity of injuries. It is also useful when drafting a complaint and enables a car accident lawyer to notify the right insurance company of a person’s injury or property damage claims.
To get the copy, an accident victim can go to the station that generated the report or visit the police agency’s website and provide accident details like the crash location and date, the names of the people involved, and the RD number.
Calling the agency and asking for confirmation of the report’s existence and how to go about getting a copy can also help. It usually takes a few days for the report to become available to the public.
Ordering Video Surveillance Footage
Camera footage can help determine essential elements of an accident that may not have been captured in the police report. An accident victim will first have to confirm if potential footage exists by contacting the person or entity controlling the potential footage. For example, he or she will have to contact the municipality if it is traffic camera footage that he or she is trying to obtain.
After confirming the footage exists, the person will have to write a Spoliation Letter asking for the footage to be saved and preserved for the litigation process. The letter should be sent by certified mail for proof of receipt. The victim should contact the person or organization and confirm if the Spoliation Letter was received.
In some cases, a fee or subpoena may be required for the release of the footage.
Filing One’s Own Complaint
If negotiations with an insurance company fall apart or the statute of limitations on a claim is fast approaching, what should follow is filing a complaint and beginning the litigation process. In Illinois, complaints are filed electronically. People can start the electronic filing process by visiting the county website.
Time limits exist for filing complaints. In Illinois, complaints for personal injuries have to be filed within two years of the accident date. However, if the at-fault party is a township, city, or state, then the complaint has to be filed within one year.
To file a complaint, one must know the name of the at-fault party (the defendant), which is usually contained in the police report. The complaint has to be filed with a summons and civil action cover sheet.
An accident victim may find navigating a case without an attorney extremely complicated. He or she can contact the local county clerk or an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance. Accident lawyers usually offer free initial consultations.