Not only is it an interesting snapshot of a day, sometimes as simple as "It was a steady day with calls for service but nothing significant to report," but there's a potential to garner useful, even critical information.
Let's say you're buying a used car and you run the VIN through CarProof. You find a claim record. This is not necessarily cause for alarm, they could be minor fender-benders. But you want to know more. Well, since most accidents happen close to home, you can check the police reports for the city in question. Assuming that there's a correlation between injury and severe accidents (though this is not always the case, and there are always many competent automotive engineers who are working to make it not the case), you might just stumble upon the wherefores and whys.
In my case, I didn't, though the "Damage Amount" recorded on an abstract I'm reading is "$-294" (what the heck does that minus sign mean?*) and is probably a nuisance claim not worth worrying too much about. On the other hand, I was able to go back to December 2001 and find a report that covered an accident I had!
December 9, 2001
Various incident numbers - There were 15 separate motor vehicle accidents between 12:40 and 4:00 p.m. as a result of the first snow of the season. A total of 25 vehicles were involved and 6 people were injured, including one pedestrian and one child who tobogganed into a stopped vehicle. No one was seriously injured.
Fifteen! Well now I don't feel so bad. And a narrowly-averted Darwin Award for that kid with the toboggan.
Actually, the topic of this very accident came up at the shop today, and I learned something interesting: 4WD vehicles don't stop any faster than 2WDs - I was driving a Jeep Wagoneer with the 4WD engaged - but they will orient themselves more quickly and decisively, which includes directions that happen to take you over the curb and into an electric pole at 50 km/h.
* * *
More gravely, it just occurred to me that I should be able to find a report for that infamous night at Buster's. That was 2004... July 16th, 2004. And yet there's nothing relevant for that day or the next (it happened after midnight and might have been recorded for the following day). That's kind of suspicious. But there is this interesting tidbit:
Inc. #04-31625 At approximately 10 p.m. two 16-year-old females reported they were robbed by two females in the area of Lyons Park in Bedford. The victims received minor injuries from being kicked. A purse containing ID and money was stolen during the incident, which is still under investigation.
Inc. #04-31616 At approx 10:10 p.m. a male reported he was robbed by a large group of youths consisting of 10 males and two females in the area of Lyons Park in Bedford. They stated they had a box cutter and the victim received minor injuries from being roughed up. The incident is under investigation. No charges at this time.
Note that only the women (surely the same two) robbed the women, but women and men robbed the man.
* - Rich at CarProof says: "The most common cause for claims to appear with a negative dollar value is when the driver was found to be not at fault for the incident, and the amount is what the policy holder was able to draw from the at-fault driver's insurance company. Therefore, it likely cost $294 to repair whatever was damaged to this vehicle." That's a relief, I figured the minus sign might have been covering up a one or a two!