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John Inserra
John Inserra
Attorney • (800) 642-1242

Reporting Accidents

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Accidents happen all around us. Some people get hurt, some do not. Some people have claims, some do not. Everyone has an interest in trying to eliminate accidents from happening. We all need to timely report accidents, whenever and wherever they happen, so these accidents don’t keep repeating themselves, causing harm to others. Most accidents are required to be reported. If you get into a motor vehicle accident you have to make a report to the police and to the State. If you get hurt at work, you are required to make a report to your employer. If you get hurt on another person’s property, the grocery store, the retail store, the restaurant, etc, you are required to make a report.

The first and foremost reason to make out a report is so that whatever happened to you won’t happen to someone else. The report triggers some investigation to avoid future accidents and injuries to other people. A police officer may call for a city to follow up an automobile accident with a study of the intersection or street where it happened. A bad railroad switch needs to be replaced or repaired by a maintenance crew. An unsafe work practice or place remains bad unless it is addressed and fixed. The water or ice you slip on will remain unless someone knows it is present and fixes the source. If hazards go unreported, the next unsuspecting person will be hurt.

While most people perceive accident reporting as a prelude to the filing of a claim, this is not why it is required. The real purpose is to look at an undesirable event to determine whether it can be avoided in the future. This is not to say that accident reports are not used when claims are made. That report will document an accident, an injury, witnesses to the injury, and a mechanism to that injury. It should spark an investigation which may include photographs, measurements and statements of witnesses. If you are required to fill out a report and do not do so, then any later claim you may have, will be severely damaged.

When filling out accident reports remember the old saying by Joe Friday on Dragnet: “Just the facts please.” In filling out a report you need to be honest, forthright, thorough, and complete. You need to report what you know by your being involved in the accident, not what you conclude. Questions which ask for information that you do not know should be answered by saying “I don’t know.” Many employment accident reports will ask for opinions of fault; if you give an opinion, make sure it is understood that the answer is an opinion based on the facts as you know them. An example of this would be a railroad personal injury form which asks: “Was the accident caused by the conduct of another person?” This question asks for your opinion. If a railroad switch was bad causing you to hurt yourself, you can make assumptions that the switch was not maintained and that someone should have done so, but do you really know whether that was the case or not? All opinion questions are open to further investigation before a definitive answer can be given.

You need to be complete about how you feel. Every injury, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, must be reported.