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 on that here.
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.
What’s included on an accident report?
The owner of the vehicle
Any passengers that were riding in the vehicles
A diagram of how it occurred
A narrative explaining how it occurred
Usually but not always a code sheet
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.
Some of these mistakes 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
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 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.
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
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 stands for other. And both drivers getting a 26 in the box is not good. 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)
No of the drivers involved in the accident received any citations, who is at-fault?
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.
What should I do if I see something wrong on my car accident report?
You should contact the officer or his supervisor immediately. The officers name and the supervisor who checked the car accident report are both listed. Call immediately, if you wait to later, the officer may not remember the car crash or you. They may or may not make the changes. They may amend the report, make sure you obtain an amended copy.
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 , ever swap information and leave the scene.
Am example of a 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.