If you’re involved in a Virginia traffic accident, you should immediately contact the police.
If the responding officer concludes that the accident involved injury, death, or property damage in excess of $1,500, they will prepare an accident report.
Within 24 hours of completing their investigation, the officer will submit their report to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Then, any related parties can request a copy of this report by either:
- Filling out an Information Request Form (CRD 93) and submitting that form to the DMV by mail, fax, or in-person.
- Submitting a written request to the DMV that contains all of the relevant information required by law.
In this article, we’ll quickly cover the basics of Virginia accident reports.
We’ll also outline how you can request a copy of your accident report, the costs you should expect, and when you should receive your copy.
Editor’s Note: The Virginia DMV provides a wonderful overview of this question on their page, “Requesting a Police Crash Report from the DMV.” This article simply expands on the information provided on that page.
What is an Accident Report and Why Should I Care?
Your accident report will generally contain important information regarding the circumstances of the crash.
In most cases, this will include details such as a basic description of the accident, the officer’s observations, a hand-drawn diagram of the crash, and information about any drivers, passengers, vehicles, and witnesses involved.
Effectively, the officer’s report is a written record of the crash, and acts as the starting point for your future efforts to recoup your losses.
Whether that’s reporting the crash to your insurance company or hiring a lawyer to file a personal injury claim, most cases will include the accident report in at least some way.
Note, however, that accident reports are inadmissible as evidence in court.
Despite this, it’s still a useful way to present the basic facts of a potential personal injury case to your lawyer.
As an interesting fun-fact, the Virginia DMV uses information from these reports to create their annual publication “Crash Facts.”
Should I request a copy of the accident report?
Maybe. It really depends on the circumstances of your case. Under Virginia law, both your attorney and your insurance company can pull the accident report on your behalf.
For this reason, you really only need a copy if:
- You want to compare the contents of the report to your own recollection of the accident. Sometimes, the report can have minor inaccuracies, so you’ll want to correct any demonstrably false facts (such as if your pictures of the crash contradict the officer’s diagram).
- You want to confirm the report’s contents before you send it to your insurance company (some insurance companies will request that you send them a copy, despite being able to request a copy themselves).
- You want to show the report to an attorney so that they can better gauge whether or not you have a personal injury claim.
- You just want a copy for personal reasons.
Since requesting a copy of the report is rather cheap, there’s no real harm in simply asking for a copy or two for your records.
When should I request a copy of the accident report?
As outlined in the Virginia Code:
“Any report of an accident…shall be maintained by the Department in either hard copy or electronic form for a period of at least 36 months from the date of the accident.”Virginia Code § 46.2-380
Similarly, as outlined above, the responding officer will usually submit the report to the DMV within a day of concluding their investigation.
For this reason, you should generally request a copy of the accident report around a week after the accident (that way, the DMV will have time to process the officer’s report).
However, you can request a copy for up to three years after the date of the accident.
Who can request a copy?
According to Virginia Code § 46.2-379, accident reports are confidential, privileged documents.
Basically, this means that the DMV will only release the full accident report to people who were actually involved in the crash (or agents acting on their behalf).
As outlined in a different law, this means that the accident report can be requested by:
- Any person involved in the accident (or their attorney, or, in the event of injury or death, the personal representative of the injured party, such as a guardian, executor, or next of kin).
- Any authorized representative of an insurance carrier who is investigating the accident in anticipation of a civil liability claim.
- Any authorized representative of an insurance carrier who is screening an applicant for issuance or renewal of an auto insurance policy (i.e. if you apply for a new auto insurance policy, they can pull the accident report).
- Any authorized agent of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
However, keep in mind that uninvolved parties can still request basic facts about the crash, such as the names of any people involved or the addresses of the drivers.
How to Request a Copy of Your Accident Report
Requesting a copy of your accident report is actually relatively simple.
As noted above, all you really have to do is (1) ask the DMV for a copy, (2) pay the associated $8.00 processing fee, and (3) wait for your certified copy to come via first-class mail.
We’ll break down each of these points below.
How do I submit my request to the DMV?
There are two general ways to request a copy of your accident report from the DMV:
- Option 1 – Submit an Information Request Form (CRD 93) to the DMV. You can submit this form in-person, as a fax, or through the mail. This is the generally recommended option.
- Option 2 – If you are unable to fill out the Information Request Form, or would like to request additional information, you can instead choose to submit a written request.
In either case, you’ll basically have to submit the following information to the DMV:
- Your name;
- Your involvement in this accident (driver / passenger / witness / etc…);
- The date and time of the crash;
- The location of the crash;
- Your driver’s license number;
- Any other information noted on the Information Request Form that might help the DMV connect you to the crash.
How much does it cost?
The DMV charges an $8.00 processing fee for each copy of the accident report that you request.
You’ll have to pay this fee even if the DMV can’t find the accident report in their records (such as if you submit your request before the officer finishes their report).
The DMV has information on how you can pay this fee on their website.
Of note, you can only use a credit card if you pay in-person at your local customer service center.
How soon will I receive my copies?
After they process your request, the DMV will send you a copy of your report via first-class mail.
In total, you should expect to receive a copy of the report within a few days to a few weeks of submitting your request.
Requesting a copy of your accident report is actually quite simple.
Generally speaking, you just need to (1) show the DMV that your request follows all relevant Virginia laws, (2) pay a small $8.00 processing fee, and (3) wait for the copy to come in the mail.
Remember, however, that your attorney and insurance company can both request copies on their own, so it’s not necessary for you to request a copy as part of your case.
If you have any remaining questions about the accident report or the process of requesting one, you should direct them to your insurance company, your attorney, or your local DMV service center.