How to Read an Accident Report
When you receive your copy of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report, you will get a four-page document filled with many code numbers and little checkboxes. Despite the perplexing numbers and tiny boxes, the report explains very clearly what the officer believes happened at the accident scene.
You should review the report carefully when you receive your copy. Mistakes can happen, and your recollection may not match up with what was recorded in the official report. You should make careful note of any differences so your attorney can have the report changed if necessary.
Page One – About the Crash
The front of page one is about the people involved in the accident.
At the very top are the Texas DOT’s address and the incident number. There is also a line saying, “Page 1 of __”. Pay close attention to this. If it says “1 of 3” and you only received two pages, your attorney will need to look for the missing page.
The next section describes the location of the accident, the city or county, the street name or highway, the nearest address or intersection, and any road signs or markers.
Below that are two sections, for “Driver 1” and “Driver 2,” their passengers and vehicles. These sections contain all information about the drivers, including names and addresses, insurance information, license numbers, and whether a field sobriety test was administered.
If more than two drivers are involved, additional pages will be added. There is also a checkbox that notes whether fire or EMS narratives are attached if any passengers were extracted or treated on the scene.
Page Two – Narrative and Citations
The back of the page, page two, is about the outcome of the accident.
The top section lists any injuries to anyone at the accident scene, where they were taken, and what agency took them from the scene. If anyone was pronounced dead at the scene, that time will be noted on the report.
Below that is a section listing any citations that were issued, which individuals received them, and the code sections that were violated. Under that, there is space for property damage and commercial vehicle information.
The bottom half of the page consists of a written narrative and a scene diagram. The officer writes their impressions and actions in the narrative box and adds any explanations for areas where the codes are insufficient or not available.
The diagram should show the approximate location of the vehicles relative to each other and the roadway, with any important landmarks and direction of travel for both vehicles. Pay careful attention to this section. Police are no better at map drawing than anyone else, and their drawings may not match the photographs of the scene.
At the very bottom, the officer who wrote the report signs their name and provides their badge or ID number. The report should also have their supervisor’s name and number, indicating that the report was reviewed. If the report does not have both signatures, it may mean it was not reviewed before it was filed.
Pages Three and Four – Codes
The report also includes two pages with all the code numbers and letters used on the previous two pages. Rather than long checklists or having officers write everything out by hand, Texas officers use number and letter codes from a preset list to write their reports.
For instance, in the “Sequence of Events” checkbox on the first page, “1” means “Non-Collision: Ran Off Road,” and “12” means “Collision: Involving Pedestrian.” There are twenty possible options for Sequence of Events, and the officer can write out anything that isn’t covered in the narrative.
Page Five – Continuation Page
The space for the narrative on page 2 is very small, so you might receive an additional page, a “continuation” page. This gives the officer more room to describe the accident scene, list additional passengers or witnesses, or provide information about additional vehicles.
In a multi-car accident, there may be a larger scene map on this page and additional notes on this page showing directions of travel and vehicle locations.
The DOT does not keep police photographs or videos. If police investigators took these at the scene, they will not be appended to your report. You will need to request them directly from the responding agency.
If you need help reading your accident report, call the Texas motor vehicle accident lawyers of Gibson Hill Personal Injury at 512-580-8334. Our legal team will explain the codes, help you get any photos or videos that may have been taken, and help you file your claim if necessary. Call us today.