What Kind of Information Is on a Police Report (And Why is it Important)?

Author: Auger Law | March 19th, 2019
  • North Carolina law requires a full and complete accident report for any accidents that cause personal injury, and/or over $1,000 in estimated property damage. Additionally, any vehicle carrying hazardous substances that is involved in an accident will also require a police report.
  • Requesting a certified report only costs $5 and can generally be requested after a car accident report has been completed by the reporting law enforcement agency.

police officer writing car accident crash reportAfter a car wreck in North Carolina, it is advisable to always make sure that law enforcement is notified so that an accident report can be created. Knowing how to later access these reports is crucial when filing an injury claim against an at-fault driver and their insurance company. If this is your first car accident, you may not know what information to expect from the police report, this post will be helpful to you. Understanding your report is a critical part of putting forth a successful injury claim. Injury victims in Raleigh often work with a car accident attorney to build a compelling claim that has a high chance of success.

As an official record of the accident, a police crash report often provides the foundational evidence needed to reconstruct how and why a crash happened.

How to Obtain a Copy of Your Crash Report

Fortunately for parties seeking information on their accident, accident reports are generally made available to anyone involved directly in the crash. Please note that it is important to know which law enforcement agency was involved with investigating and reporting the accident.

Parties can research whether their report is available using the North Carolina State Highway Patrol collision database for accidents investigated by that agency. Parties can also request a certified crash report from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) by phone, by mail, or in person using a standard form.  Because so many different jurisdictions are responsible for creating and releasing accident reports, you may need to contact the agency that reported to your accident to find out more about getting a copy of your report.  In many cases, the officer will leave you with this information.

A car accident report uses a standardized form to quickly capture data about an accident. This data may also be accompanied by a descriptive narrative of the accident or the responding officer’s encounter at the accident scene.

Learn more about the five most important components of a police report below.

Conditions at the Time of the Crash

A police crash report will establish the road conditions that existed in the area of the crash at the exact time it happened. Relevant information captured includes:

  1. Whether or not the crash occurred in a rural, urban, or mixed developed area
  2. The type of development or natural area surrounding the crash site
  3. The road surface conditions at the time of the accident, including any natural debris, man-made debris, ice, snow, oil, or other type of unusual matter on the road
  4. The weather at the time of the crash
  5. Whether the weather contributed to the crash conditions
  6. How well lit the road was and whether the sun was out or only partially

Description of the Crash Event and Contributing Factors

The next sections of the police report will cover the most important details of the crash in brief. While these forms will not be able to provide a complete narrative for the crash, they will offer a surprising amount of descriptive detail at a glance.

Details captured in these sections include:

  • Any actions taken by non-motorists (i.e. pedestrians, bicyclists) that contributed to the accident, if applicable
  • Any roadway conditions that could have contributed to the crash
  • Any actions taken by drivers that contributed to the crash, such as disobeying road laws or making dangerous maneuvers
  • The location that the first harmful event and the most harmful event occurred
  • Any visual obstructions present on the road, such as buildings, undergrowth, or blinding sunlight

Information on Vehicles, Drivers, and Any Non-Motorists Involved in the Crash

After noting important crash information, the police report will document any vehicles, drivers, and other persons involved in the crash. This information includes:

  • How many vehicles were involved in the accident
  • The type, make, and model of each vehicle involved
  • Whether each person involved was a driver, passenger, or non-motorist
  • Where each driver or passenger was placed in the vehicle at the time of the accident
  • Each person of interest’s information:
    • Date of birth
    • Ethnicity
    • Gender
    • Names and addresses
    • *Please note in some cases this info may be redacted.
  • Whether the motorist or non-motorist was using any protection or safety equipment at the time of the accident, such as a seatbelt or reflective vest
  • The name of the company that towed away each vehicle
  • Whether the person involved was ill, fatigued, impaired by alcohol or drugs, or had any other relevant impairment
  • Whether a driver was operating under a restricted license
  • If any drug or alcohol use is suspected
  • Whether a drug or alcohol test was taken, and the results
  • Whether any vehicle was seized or subject to forfeiture because the driver was under the influence (S. 20-28.2.)
  • The name of the emergency medical services (EMS) transport that appeared at the accident, and what medical facility any injured were evacuated to

The Vehicle Conditions Immediately After the Accident

The state of a vehicle after an accident says a lot about how serious the crash was and how it played out in this unique situation. Accordingly, a North Carolina police crash report will note whether:

  • An airbag deployed
  • Any parties trapped inside the vehicle
  • Any parties were ejected (thrown) from the vehicle, including partially
  • Anyone was injured and how seriously
  • Involved vehicles were able to be driven from the scene

Additionally, the report will capture what areas of each vehicle involved were damaged, how severe each area of damage was, and the estimated cost of damage.

More Important Info from The Report

The final sections of the police crash report will attempt to describe the conditions leading up to the crash as well as the sequence of events that occurred during the crash, including relevant details.

This section will contain the most information on the report, and it will be relied upon heavily by insurers, courts, and car accident lawyers in North Carolina in order to reveal an objective narrative for how and why the crash took place.

Elements described may include:

  • The initial point of contact on each vehicle
  • What type of maneuver each vehicle was performing before the accident, such as turning or driving straight ahead
  • The actions a non-motorist was taking
  • The location of any non-motorists
  • Non-collision vehicle events, such as running off-road or overturning
  • Collision events between the motor vehicle and any other vehicles, pedestrians, animals, fixed objects, etc.
  • How far away from the road each struck object was
  • Whether the vehicle had any known defects, such as faulty brakes
  • Whether the driver of the vehicle was likely obeying posted speed limits
  • Estimated speed of each vehicle at the time of each impact
  • The distance the vehicle traveled after each impact
  • What type of road surface and feature the crash occurred upon
  • Whether any traffic control device was present and operating
  • What type of road and/or intersection the crash occurred upon, such as a four-way stop, two-lane divided highway, one-way street, etc.

Finally, the police officer or officers responding may attempt to draw a quick diagram of the crash and write down a narrative of what occurred.

Working with a Car Accident Attorney

A police report can be a powerful document when proving an injury claim, but it will not always be enough to assert liability or convince insurers to offer a fair settlement.

In these instances, having a car accident attorney in Raleigh or elsewhere in NC or SC can help individuals build a strong case and assemble evidence that backs up both the police report narrative and their own assertions. Your personal injury lawyer can negotiate with insurers, assemble evidence, and form a legal strategy to help you claim rightful damages. Potential compensation you could recover includes money for your medical bills, lost wages, compensation for pain and suffering, and more.

If you have been in a car accident in Raleigh or anywhere in North Carolina or South Carolina, do not hesitate to exercise your right to obtain legal representation for your injury claim. Contact us online today or by phone to schedule a free case review.

Posted In: Car Accidents