Accident reports are very important to obtain after you have been involved in a car wreck. Its very important to obtain a report as soon as it becomes available. You will find out, after you have been involved in a car accident, everyone is going to want a copy of the report, from your insurance company to your accident doctor. Understanding what’s on your accident report is another story, you can find more information on that below.
Table of contents
- What’s included on an accident report?
- Understanding your Accident Report
- Why is so important to get a copy of the accident report?
- Common mistakes on a police report might be:
- None of the drivers received citations
- What can you do to fix errors on your accident report
- Always call the police after an auto accident
- Bottom Line on getting a police report ASAP
What is a police report?
A accident report is an official document written by a legal entity such as the police. If can be an incident report or an accident report. Incident reports generally occur on private property and in many cases don’t assign blame. A accident report is generally within the police department’s jurisdiction. A accident report can be written by city, county, or state police departments.
What’s included on an accident report?
Typical reports will have the drivers name, owners name, insurance information and policy number. It will also have passengers listed that were present at the time of the accident. There will be a drawing of how the accident occurred and a written narrative explaining what happened. Witness’s will also be listed and everyone’s phone number and usually address.
Police reports will have the officer’s name that wrote it up and the supervisor’s name who checked it off. These two names will be very important if there is anything wrong on the report. The responsible city, county or state police will be present on the report.
This will include driver license number, address, and phone number. This usually is listed at the top of the page, on the left or right side of the split page. What side of the page it is listed on depends on who was at fault and what law enforcement entity wrote up the accident.
Owner of Vehicle involved in collision
The actual owner of the vehicle involved in the collision will be listed on the report as well. His or her name will be listed on the lower half of the police report about halfway down the page. If the owner is the same as the driver, he may just leave this section blank, or repeat the information.
Insurance information is generally found underneath the drivers information. It will list the insurance provider along with the policy number.
Passengers are listed on the 2nd or third page of the report. They will have the name, address, age and phone number listed. This information will vary depending on what law enforcement agency wrote of the report.
- Diagram of how the accident occurred
- Narrative explaining the accident
- Code sheet ( may have to ask for one)
Understanding your Accident Report
Accident reports can seem intimidating if you have never seen one. You might have a lot of questions, what do all those numbers mean? what is contributing factors? We are going to try and explain how to read the most common Accident report. An accident report generally consist of the parties involved listed on a split page.
The second page generally has diagram of what happened in the accident. On the second page it is common to list all the passengers in both vehicles at the time of the accident. We will go over the most critical information on an accident report that will that a lawyer would use to determine if you have a personal injury case. We are going to cover some issue first
What are all those small boxes with numbers in them?
Those numbers are code, look at the code sheet to determine what the mean. The code sheet is usually the last sheet on a car accident report. In most cases they give these out with the police report. In some instances they don’t. When you pick up your accident report make sure you have a code sheet if you don’t understand what all those numbers mean.
Who is listed first on an accident report (Driver 1)
Driver 1 in most states is the at fault party, even if there was no citation given. And, Driver 1 will usually be there first person listed on the accident report. Driver 2 is usually the personal who is not at fault in the car wreck. The most critical box is contributing factors. Anything other than 1 is not good for you.
What are contributing factors?
Contributing factors tell who contributed to causing the accident. This can be done in the form of a number or an explanation. In most cases if you have a 1 or none in the contributing factors box, you contributed nothing to cause the auto accident.
If you have anything other than a 1 or none, you could contributed some or all to the cause of the accident. If no citations were issued at the scene of the accident, attorneys may look at the contributing factors to determine if someone was liable for the auto accident.
The dreaded number 26
26 means “other”. And both drivers getting a 26 in the box is not a good thing. This usually means the officer could not determine who was at fault and puts a 26 in both the little boxes where it says contributing factors. In some instances the officer will explain the 26 in the narrative portion of the police report.
Typical contributing factors
1-No Contributing Factors
2-Under the Influence (U.I.)
3-Following Too Close
4-Failed to Yield
5-Exceeding Speed Limit
6-Disregard Stop Sign/Signal
7-Wrong Side of Road
10-Driver Lost Control
11-Changed Lanes Improperly
12-Reaction to Object or Animal
19-No Signal/Improper Signal
22-Too Fast for Conditions
23-Improper Passing of School Bus
28-Inattentive or Other Distraction (Distracted)
30-Talking on Hands-Free Device (Distracted)
31-Talking on Hand-Held Device (Distracted)
32-Other Activity-Mobile Device (Distracted)
33-Occupant Distraction (Distracted)
34-Other Interior Distraction (Distracted)
35-Other Exterior Distraction (Distracted)
36-Disregard Other Traffic Control
41-Not Visible (Object, Person, or Vehicle)
Why is so important to get a copy of the accident report?
Its extremely important to get a copy of your report as soon as it becomes available for several reasons. Officers are human just like the rest of us, and sometimes they make mistakes. Some mistakes that may seem insignificant to you, might be a huge problem in the future. These Mistakes can be detrimental if you are injured and are in need of medical attention. Furthermore, if you retain an attorney, the accident report will be a deciding factor in him or her taking your case.
Getting an accident report or filing an accident report after a car wreck is crucial. Many people have minor fender benders in parking lots and swap information with each other and call if a day. I had someone run into the back of me years ago and he wanted to just swap insurance info and i would not do it, I called the police.
Was I being hard to deal with, I don’t think so. I did this because at the time I was investigator for a law firm and had seen many people get claims denied for swapping info and not having a police report. The other party did not call their insurance company as promised.
Common mistakes on a police report might be:
- Driver 1 and driver 2 are backwards
- No passengers are listed
- The cars involved are listed under the wrong driver
- The year, make, model, color of the car is wrong
- Diagram not drawn correctly
- Vehicles labeled incorrectly
- Narrative has the car numbers backwards
These are just a few things that could be wrong on your report. You need to make sure all the passengers are listed that were in your car if there were any. If a passenger was injured and not listed the insurance company is going to have a hard time paying out on a claim.
Persons involved in the accident, make sure your name is listed
I have seen passengers that for some reason the officer does not list on the accident report. I have no doubt they were in the car, but the insurance company is not going to believe it. The drivers information will be on the first page, but the passenger will be on the second page near the bottom. It’s important to get a copy of the accident report as soon as it becomes available.
The time to that is available may be 3-7 days after the auto accident. Get a copy as soon as you can and verify all the information is correct. Make sure if there were passengers in your car they are listed on the accident report.
If your name is not listed on the report
If they are not listed on the report, you need to call the precinct immediately and speak with a supervisor and see what can be done to get the report amended. The officer may not change the accident report, but he will add another page and explain the discrepancy.
And, the attorney may not even represent you as a passenger is you are not listed. Make sure you and all your passengers are listed on the accident report. This is the most common error.
None of the drivers received citations
In my experience as an Accident investigator, this happens about 15% of the time. It is generally the officers desecration if he cites anyone. In some law enforcement communities it is required that he write a citation. Generally if he writes a citation or not, he still has to assign blame for the accident.
In a very small percentage of auto accidents, he may not be able to determine who was at-fault, he will then generally write no citations and note the conflicting stories and either assign blame to both drivers or none. This can be a problem, if your car was a total loss and you only have liability, no one is going to replace it.
The officer did not write a ticket
One important number to look at is something called contributing factors. Contributing factors mean who actually contributed to causing the accident. If no citations were issued, the officer usually noted in the contributing factor box who was at-fault. In some entities its officers discretion whether or not he cites someone.
Just because someone did not get a citation does not absolve them of liability in a car crash. In some cases the officer cannot determine who was at-fault, in cases like these he usually puts “other” in the contributing factor box and lets the insurance companies decide who was at-fault. You do not want an accident report when both drivers have other in the contributing factor box.
Citations are usually listed on the second page. They list who received the citation and what it was for. This can be done with the citation code or explanation or both. In some instances an officer might issue you a subpoena to go to court. You are a government witness against the person who was issues the citation.
Going to traffic court
If you do not show up, there won’t be anyone to testify against the person who received the citation. However, when this happens the responsible party may have his citation thrown out of court. Furthermore, If this happens you may not get your vehicle fixed or your medical cost covered.
If you received a citation and you don’t think you were at-fault for the auto accident (typical with red lights and 4 way stops) make sure you go to court and if you have any witnesses, bring them too. You may want to seek council from a traffic attorney as to the best course of action for you to take. Police officers are human, they make mistakes just like the rest of us.
Critical information on a police report
The most critical information on a police report for personal injury cases and to determine who is at-fault is contributing factors and citations. If you swap information at the scene of an auto accident and fail to file a accident report you are asking for trouble. If you were injured, make sure to call the police and get an accident report. Never swap information and leave the scene.
Issues that could arise if you don’t get an accident report
- You claim will be denied
- Your car will not get fixed
- No personal injury case
- No One will help you with medical care
- An attorney will not take your case
Accident reports are extremely important for your protection. They will prove you were in a car wreck and list any passengers in the car with you at the time of the accident.
At Fault party fails to inform their insurance company
Better yet when you call their insurance company, nothing has been reported and the claim is denied. When you have an auto accident, you are not doing anything wrong by making sure the police come out and fill out an accident report. A lot of attorneys won’t even touch a case that does not have a police report.
You are not doing anyone any favors by not getting one, other than the at fault party. Honesty is always the best policy and we like to think that everyone is as honest as we are; unfortunately that is not always the case. Even with no injury and minimal property damage, you still should get an accident report. If you had only liability on your car and someone hit you, without an accident report that would pay for your car to be fixed, you would.
What if the information is wrong on my accident report when I pick it up?
If something is wrong on your accident report, you must call the officer who wrote up that report or the supervisor who checked it off. Mistakes are made, and in many cases they can be fixed. But if you don’t act quickly, these mistakes may not be fixed. Below are some very detrimental mistakes that can make you responsible for an accident in the eyes of an insurance company. Or, you won’t have a personal injury claim.
Some of the things on a accident report that could be inaccurate
- Name and address of all parties involved
- Phone number
- Year Make & Model of your vehicle
- Damage to vehicles
- Contributing Factors
- Narrative (little drawing showing how the accident occurred)
- Passengers in involved vehicles
Police officers, just like us make mistakes. Some of those mistakes may cost you such as not listing all the passengers in your car and one might be injured. This is by far one of the biggest issues. The officer forgot to ask about passengers or just forgot to list them. Unfortunately if you catch this too late, he’s not going to remember. Your passengers may not have a personal injury case or can receive medical treatment if they are not listed on the accident report.
Wrong person cited on Accident Report
(other party received citation, but you are listed as receiving the citation)
Please excuse the large pictures in this section.
It’s not common, but in some instances you could be the driver listed that received the citation, even though the other party received it or had contributing factors.
Damage to Vehicle
Sometimes, you could have moderate damage and the officer mark slight. Attorneys and adjusters look at this. Officers don’t own body shops, in my opinion they are not qualified to tell if a vehicle has moderate, extensive or slight damage. However they are human and they will mark what they see, hidden damage is not seen
Passengers not listed on accident report
I have seen this happen to many people who had passengers in their car at the time of the accident. The passenger is injured, but they are not listed on the police report. You need to immediately call the entity that wrote of the accident report and speak with a supervisor and have the passenger changed. They will more than likely just amend the accident report to add the passengers. Do not wait, it’s like seeing the doctor, act fast so that the officer remembers the car wreck.
Contributing Factors wrong
You have to look hard on the accident report for contributing factors. They are generally found under the driver’s information towards the bottom of the police report. Contributing Factors tell who contributed to causing the accident.
Witnesses not listed
Make sure you get the names and numbers of any witnesses at the scene of an accident. Do not rely on the police to get them. Any wittiness would be listed under the witness section. If you do not see the name of any witnesses, this could be a huge problem.
The narrative gives a brief description how the accident occurred. The officers can get this wrong by referring the vehicles by the wrong number. Make sure the narrative is correct and the number of your car corresponds with your driver number.
The same apply s with the diagram, the officer could get the numbers referring to vehicles backwards, make sure the numbers and your vehicle is correct in the drawing.
What can you do to fix errors on your accident report
One of the first things I would do is call the officer before the accident report even becomes available and make sure he remembers the passengers, if any, in your car. Passengers are sometimes left out for whatever the reason. You may be able to fix some errors
Obtain a copy as soon as it becomes available. This allows you to read over it and see if there are any mistakes. If you do see some errors, contact the officer right away.
Call the police officer ASAP
Call the officer right away, if you see any errors or issues on your accident report. Before the officer leaves the scene of an accident he will give you his business card with a case number on it. It should have his name and possibly badge number. Call him right away if you see something not right. However, officers are very busy; respect their time if you can get them on the phone.
I would list in here to call the person who checked off on the police report. However, he was not at the scene of the accident and more than likely he will not change it.
Supplement to report
They may not change your police report, but they may add to it in the form of a supplement. This is just an extra page that explains why there is a supplement and any changes made to it. Supplements may be added after you pick up your accident report, so you may need to check with the reporting agency about a supplement, if one was written.
What should you do if you get your accident report and you see something wrong? Believe it or not this happens from time to time. Public safety officials are just like all of us, they make mistakes. If your accident report has mistakes on it, you need to get them fixed ASAP, or they could cost you in the long run. It contains a lot of information related to your car crash.
Always call the police after an auto accident
Why do you do this? Let’s say the driver than ran into the back of your car suggest that you swap information, and you do this. The police are not called, you took the drivers word that he or she would call their insurance company and admit fault, right? WRONG. After a few days, you start to wonder if they did call the insurance company.
You pick up the phone and call them, you tell them what happened. They will say OK, they might give you a claim number. They will also tell you they have to get a statement from their policy holder. When they call their policy holder, he or she says they don’t know what they are talking about.
What do you think the insurance company is going to do? They will deny your claim. Why would they do this? You have absolutely no proof other than your word that an accident even took place. The insurance company does not work for you, they work for who pays them money and will always side with the policy holder. Do yourself a favor, call the police and get an accident report.
Bottom Line on getting a police report ASAP
When you have issues with your information on the crash report, you need to try and fix it ASAP. Police officers forget, and may not change or add anything. It is possible to get it changed, but you really cannot wait, you have to do it immediately. And even then, they may not change it.
An example of an accident report can be downloaded below, it has some highlighted areas that show where contributing factors, citations and passengers are listed. This is a GA accident report, so it will vary across the country. This is just a general understanding of an accident report, always consult legal counsel if need further advice about your accident report.
In some areas you can obtain a copy online. This website will let you buy one online in some areas. Check with the department who wrote up the car accident report to see if you can obtain a copy online.
Make sure your accident doctor gets a copy as well. He needs this information to file the necessary paperwork if applicable. Make sure to always get a copy of your accident report ASAP.