If you have ever had to try to get information from a Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report, or accident report, following a car accident, motorcycle accident, tractor trailer accident, or any other accident, involving a motor vehicle, you may have found it as confusing, as I initially did. I have been looking at these reports for almost 20 years now, so I have become quite familiar with the information provided in each section. This paper discusses the 7 most informative sections in the Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report and how to read and gather information from each of those sections.
1. Identification and Location
At the very top, of the first page of the accident report, you will find the section called Identification and Location. In this section, you will first find the date (month, day, year) and then the time. The time is typically in military format, so do not be surprised if you see something like 18:45, which would be 6:45 p.m. In this section, you will also find the county, where the accident occurred, as well as the city, if the accident happened inside city limits. The last piece of helpful information will be the street, where the car accident happened, and if it was at or near and intersection, listing that street as well. When you first try to get your accident report, it will be helpful for you to have the information listed in the Identification and Location section, so that the records clerk can search for the report, with that necessary information.
2. Vehicle, Driver, & Persons
Directly below the Identification and Location section, you will find the Vehicle, Driver, & Persons section. If there are multiple vehicles involved in the car accident, each vehicle will have its own Vehicle, Driver, & Persons section. The first piece of information in this section is the Unit Number, which identifies the vehicles as Unit 1 or Unit 2 or whatever number is applicable, if there are multiple vehicles. This unit number assignment is helpful, when looking at the description of the accident, in the officer's narrative, on the scene diagram, and also when reviewing the Factors and Conditions (all discussed later in the paper).
You will also find identifying information for the vehicle, including the license plate number, state where the license plate was issued, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and vehicle year, color, make, model, and body style. Further down, in the same section (after the Driver & Persons), you will find a vehicle damage rating. This is very important, when speaking to an attorney, because they will most likely want to know what number the investigating officer marked here. In Texas, the vehicle damage ratings range from 0 to 7; as you can imagine, a 0 would mean no property damage and a 7 would be severe property damage. You will also find if the vehicle was towed and the location, if towed.
b. Driver & Persons
In this section, you will find the driver's license number and state of issuance, for the driver, as well as date of birth, name, and address. For each person in the vehicle, you will find their seat position, full name, severity of injury, age, ethnicity, sex, and whether a seatbelt was or was not worn. The owner of the vehicle and address, as well as liability insurance information, is listed in this section as well. A particularly helpful point, here, is that if the vehicle is owned by one person and driven by a different person, there is potential for 2 liability policies, for the injured parties, if there is coverage and damages merit more than one policy.
3. Disposition of Injured/Killed
Now on to page 2. The third informative section of the accident report is the Disposition of Injured/Killed section. Here, you will find the vehicle, and position in the vehicle, for each injured person. You will also find what hospital the victims were transferred to and by what emergency medical service they were transported. Also, if someone was killed in the accident, and died on scene, the date and time of death are noted in this section.
The Charges section is one of the most important sections, especially when it comes to determining who is at fault, for the injuries caused in the car accident, motorcycle accident, or tractor trailer accident, as well as confirming that liability insurance information was not provided. In this section, the investigating officer lists any citations that were issued. If you see "Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility", then the driver of the vehicle was not able to provide proof of insurance; that is not a good starting point, for the injured party, if that person caused the wreck. Additionally, citations for causation are listed here as well, like speeding, failure to stop at a stop sign, or following too closely; these types of citations help adjusters determine who is at fault.
5. Factors and Conditions
This section is about 2/3 of the way down the report, on the second page. If citations are not issued, this is the next most helpful section in helping the adjuster determine who was at fault. In this section, you will find "Contributing Factors" and "May Have Contributed" as well as Unit numbers of each vehicle. If the officer determined that one of the drivers was following too closely or had driver inattention and these issues were "Contributing Factors", he/she would put the corresponding code, with the unit that had the factor. This is probably the most confusing part of the report, because there is not a corresponding code section for the report. To find out what the codes mean, you can go to https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_notifications/cr3_code_sheet.pdf.
6. Narrative and Diagram
This section is the officer's written description of the accident, as well as a drawing, by the officer, of the accident scene. Sometimes, when there are witnesses, the officer will list the witness name and phone number in the narrative section. Other times, officers do not list witness information here, so, if you are looking for potential witnesses, it is always safest to do an open records request to the agency that did the investigation and you can get other helpful information, like 911 calls, 911 call logs, and copies of the actual written, witness statements.
The last important section, at the very bottom of page 2, is the Investigator section. In this section, you will find the Investigator's title and name, badge number, and the agency with which the investigator is employed. This is super helpful, when you need to follow up with the officer or get additional information from the officer. Also, sometimes adjusters want to talk directly to the officers, so having a copy of the police report could help the adjuster move their investigation along.
I hope this paper has been or will be helpful, when trying to determine how to read a Texas accident report. If you ever get a tricky report and want me to look it over for you, please do not hesitate to give me a call, shoot me a text, or shoot me an email. Bradshaw Coones, PLLC…fighting for the rights of the injured!