With over 264 million cars on the US roads, car accidents are something we see almost too often. On average, 6 million accidents happen each year. And, for any accident, a crash report must be filed with the relevant authorities. A police officer who comes to the scene is required to compile this report and file it with the police or the transport department.
However, based on the location and severity of the accident, the police may sometimes be absent at the scene. In this case, you’re then required to file the car crash report and ensure that it captures all the necessary information. It’s, however, crucial to note that different states might have different requirements for the report.
For instance, in the state of Texas, you are required to file a report for any accident that causes injuries, death, or damages exceeding $1000. Mostly, these reports are done by the police, although individuals can also file them. Also, the Department of Transportation requires that the crash report be filed within the first 10 days of the accident. And, it must be completed by you, the vehicle’s owner, and your insurance agent.
To help us get a glimpse of the whole filing process, here are five vital things that must be present in the report.
- Detailed Accident Information
Most accident reports by police are completed on a printed form. The form contains spaces where the officer fills in the specific details of the crash. The forms also offer additional space where one can write any extra information that they deem important.
If you’re personally filling the form at the DMV (department of motor vehicles) or a police station, ensure that you give a thorough description of the incident. You must include every detail as you remember it.
- Did the other driver have his/her seatbelt on?
- If they had any passengers, were their seat belts on?
- How close to the curb was the driver driving when taking the corner?
Although some questions seem irrelevant, ensure you write everything down. But, never speculate or write something you are not sure of. If uncertain of something, just indicate “not sure.”
Some crucial information about the accident that people tend to overlook includes:
- Date and exact time of the crash
- Weather conditions at the time (rainy, icy, or foggy)
- Any present road hazards such as excessive traffic, potholes, construction roadblocks, etc.
- Driving speeds of both drivers ( here you can give a rough estimate)
2. The Witnesses Accounts
This is an essential section for you as it’s the part where you get to share the account of events as you saw them. If a police officer is taking the report, be sure to give them every detail of the crash.
Also, confirm that what they are writing down is accurate right on the spot. If you get a chance, you might also need to review what other witnesses recorded.
If you are personally taking the report, ensure you record the names and contact number of the witnesses at the scene. If possible, get an audio recording of their statements using your cell phone. Don’t ignore anything. Even what you think is not important might be crucial later, especially when pursuing legal action.
In several states (46 in total), you might still be able to claim for damages, even when you’re partially to blame for the accident. This is as long as your contribution to the crash is less than 50%.
3. Snapshots from the Scene
Taking photos of the car accident scene is also very crucial. The images help to show damages caused by either of the cars. So, make sure you take snapshots of any visible damage (you can use your cell phone), causing zero interference with the investigation. Taking photos from multiple angles helps capture more details.
If you miss recording any damage at the scene, immediately contact the police department for changes.
Some of the details you may miss or overlook include:
- Damages on the other vehicle
- Injuries to the passengers or self
- Any skid marks made on the road
- Debris (such as broken car parts, shattered glass, or fragments of tire rubber)
Basically, you should include any information that might help to reveal the complete picture of the accident scene. Try and film the entire scene(even with a cell phone).
4. Details of the Other Driver
Taking the full account of the other vehicle’s driver is also helpful. This will be important both for the insurance companies or the judge if the case ends up in court. You’ll be making your life quite easy by recording all the details that pertain to the other driver.
You should include details such as:
- Their full names and address
- The make, model and registration number
- The number and the approximate ages of any passengers in the other car
- Factors that may have led to distraction (such as kids playing in the back seat, anything that could obstruct the driver’s view)
- Any noticeable defects on the other vehicle
All this information will help in the investigation and make it easier to close that case.
5. Details of the Law Enforcement Officer at the Scene
Although you might be disoriented after an accident, ensure you get the business card of the police officer that comes to the scene. If they don’t have a business card, write their details somewhere. This information should also be present in the accident report, and you must ensure that it’s there.
Taking the contact information of the officer helps you to get assistance fast if anything comes up. Sometimes, the name of the officer might be written in an illegible format, or worse still, the wrong name might be appearing on the report. So, make sure that you have an accurate name and contact.