After you’re involved in a car accident here in Charlotte, there’s likely a lot of chaos in the immediate aftermath of the collision. One of the most important pieces of evidence you’ll need later, however, is the accident report. This is the report taken by the responding police officer after the accident.
You may hear this called a crash report, accident report, or police report, but it’s all the same thing. You can access your car accident report through the North Carolina DMV website, or your Charlotte car accident lawyer can help you with this process. Our attorneys can access it for you as part of our service for clients.
These reports can be complex, even with accidents where fault seems clear-cut, so it’s important to be able to read and understand them completely.
Reading your police crash report
Your car accident report, called DMV-349, has a wide variety of information. Per the Division of Motor Vehicles, responding officers must make this report available within 24 hours of the close of the investigation of the crash. Further, “When a person injured in a reportable crash dies as a result of the crash within 12 months after the crash, and the death was not reported in the original report, the law enforcement officer investigating the crash must file a supplemental report that includes the death.”
General crash information
The top area of your accident report contains basic information about your accident, like the date, time, and location of the crash. The location should include the county, town or city, and the distance from the accident site to the nearest intersection. The responding officer should also note if the crash occurred at or near a highway or railroad crossing.
Drivers 1 and 2 information
The next areas contain information about each driver – name, address, and other contact information. It will also include things like physical conditions, vision problems, or driver’s license restrictions. This section will also list any special circumstances, like pedestrian injuries. For multi-vehicle accidents, more room on the back of the report is provided to list more drivers.
Vehicle 1 and 2 information
Here, the responding officer will fill out the information for each driver’s vehicle. This includes the owner’s information (if different than the driver), vehicle make and model, VIN, plates, and insurance information.
The bottom of the page lists contact information for other parties who may be involved in the accident, including witnesses, tow trucks, passengers, and EMS workers.
Documentation of the accident
The next page of the police report can often help determine fault and have a big effect on whether or not you’re eligible for compensation. It’s important to take a good hard look at this part of your accident report to ensure it’s free of error. In this section, the responding officer documents how they believe the collision occurred, including any actions either motorist took, like running a stop sign, speeding, or driving while intoxicated. If the accident involved a commercial vehicle, they may also record additional details here.
In this section, the officer will make a diagram of how they believe the accident happened. This can include all the vehicles involved in the crash, including the directions in which they were traveling, posted speed limits, and any actions the drivers/vehicles took preceding the accident.
What do all those codes mean?
The DMV-349 is a comprehensive document, and requires law enforcement to add a tremendous number of details – details that are coded by number. Everything from the type of road (locality) to “ambient light” (how well lit was the road?) to which parts of the vehicles sustained damage (called “TAD”) is covered. The report also talk about things like whether your airbag went off, which may prove important later if the other driver’s insurance tries to claim that your injuries cannot be that serious since no airbag deployed, implying the vehicles hit at a lower speed.
You can access a complete list of the codes here, or view the codes and their meanings within the DMV instructional manual. It looks like this on the form:
What if I was ticketed by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol?
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies both use the same DMV-349 form. If you receive a ticket from a State Trooper, you can use the same codes listed above to read your report. You can also search their website to access your crash report for free. However, if you access your crash report online, it is not a certified crash report. You must get your certified car accident report from the North Carolina DMV. If you were ticketed by a State Trooper, we can still access your report for you.
What if I see a mistake in my accident report?
If you believe there’s an error in your police report, it’s important to get it straightened out as soon as possible. Even a small clerical mistake could derail your Charlotte personal injury claim and delay you securing the compensation to which you’re entitled for your injuries and losses.
Remember, the accident report is based on the responding officer’s determination of what happened, based on the information they were given at the scene. The officer, in most cases, did not personally witness the accident. Further, you have no idea whether this officer has adequate training in making these decisions. You have the right to question the details of your accident report if you disagree with them.
In our experience, we’ve found certain errors made again and again. These can include:
- Improper or missing description of damage to the vehicles
- Mistakes in the crash diagram or accident narrative
- Incorrect placement of passengers or drivers in the vehicles
- Errors in transcribing statements from drivers, passengers, or witnesses
- Failing to report or improperly reporting injuries resulting from the crash
- Erroneously leaving out information
- Misreporting road conditions or the speed of each vehicle
- Failing to report or collect evidence at the scene
- Failing to collect statements from drivers or passengers
If you need assistance having your police report changed, one of our Charlotte attorneys can help. Typically the police will not file a new report or change an existing report, but often we can work to have a supplemental report filed with the correct information. For example, if you have new information or new evidence that would considerably affect the accident report, it is important to contact an attorney.
Contact our skilled North Carolina legal team now
Contesting the results of a police report may be difficult – but it’s not impossible. Talk to the legal team at Price, Petho & Associates today to get answers to all of your questions surrounding your car accident and your police crash report. We want to help. To schedule a free initial consultation, call our offices or complete our contact form today. We represent injured clients in Charlotte, Rutherfordton, and Rockingham.
Attorney Doug Petho is the owner and founder of Price, Petho & Associates. His primary focus is the litigation of plaintiff’s personal injury suits, and he has successfully tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict involving car accidents, trucking accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, and work-related accidents. Contact his office in Charlotte today.