A sore neck; a mangled car; the aftermath of a car accident is always unpleasant. But after you've taken care of yourself, track down the official accident report. You'll need this document to file insurance claims and complete automotive repair work paid for by another party involved in the accident.
At the accident scene
If you didn't suffer severe injuries and can communicate with the police officers on the scene, you will receive a preliminary accident report before going home. This document outlines the basics of the incident, including the makes of the vehicles involved, the names of the drivers of each vehicle, the location of the accident, an accident number and insurance information.
The next day
Contact the law enforcement agency that responded to the accident to learn when the report will be available. As a rule of thumb, if the accident happened in Atlanta city limits, contact the Atlanta Police Department or the Crash Reporting Unit for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
If the accident was outside city limits, say on a highway or interstate, contact the Georgia State Patrol or the Open Records Unit of the Georgia State Patrol, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
Request an official accident report
Don't be surprised if the law enforcement agency requests an application for the report, proof of your identity, an accident number and a fee to obtain a copy of the finalized report. Accident reports are notarized, so law enforcement officials try to recoup the cost of this process.
This document will contain more information than the one given at the scene of the accident. The finalized report includes diagrams of the positions of the vehicles and people involved, a written description of the chain of events leading to the accident as told by the attending police officer and any witnesses, as well as an estimate of the damage to all vehicles.
Make copies of the report
Don't be surprised if an original document is requested by both your insurance company and auto repair service. Be ready to pay for these extra originals from the law enforcement agency at the time you request them and make duplicates for your personal files.
Submitting the report
Laws can change frequently, so contact the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles to learn if they require a copy of the report. Some law enforcement agencies automatically forward these details to the DMV, but others do not.
Submit the report to your insurance company. This is also a good time to share any accident scene photos with the insurance company that you or a family member may have taken after the accident. If it was a major accident, newspaper clippings may also be submitted to back up your insurance claim, especially if a lawsuit is involved.
Is it time to get your vehicle fixed? Some insurance companies require multiple estimates before paying to repair the vehicle. Contact a few auto repair shops in Atlanta to start the process.