Car Crash Reports: What You Need to Know

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The car crash report is one of the most important documents that will accompany your insurance claim after your accident. The police officer has natural credibility as an objective third-party. However, there are some limits on the use of an accident report.

When You Must Report a Car Accident

There are numerous situations in which you are required to contact the police after a North Carolina car accident. Under state law, you must contact the police for practically every single car accident. There are four instances when you must call the police to the scene of an accident:

  • A bodily injury (or injuries) has occurred.
  • The property damage done to the involved motor vehicles exceeds $1,000.
  • The insurance company requires you to do so.
  • The city in which the accident occurred has a local law requiring you to contact the police.

Err on the Side of Caution and Call the Police

It is difficult at the scene to know exactly whether you should contact the police. For example, you do not have an estimate of the dollar value of the damage in the crash. It is difficult to know exactly how much damage was done. For example, even some paint damage can require expensive repairs, and you may not know by eyeballing the damage at the scene.

In addition, you may not be in your own city when you have an accident. Accordingly, you might not be familiar with the laws of the local jurisdiction and whether they have their own accident reporting requirement. Therefore, if you are in doubt at all, you are always safer when you contact the police to get a car crash report.

When the police come to the scene of the accident, they are legally obligated to investigate the accident. They may issue a citation to one of the drivers. The officer may note some of their observations on the car crash report, such as the conditions at the time of the accident and what they saw. They may even include the names of the witnesses and their contact information. After police officers investigate a “reportable” accident, they have 24 hours to write an accident report.

Police Follow a Standardized Form and Process

Police do not simply do whatever they want when they come to the accident scene. There is a standardized form and instructions that officers must follow. North Carolina publishes a manual for car crash reports. All law enforcement officers must use Crash Report Form DMV-349. The officer can type or handwrite the report, and they must file it with the state DMV. The DMV will keep the report on file, where it is subject to viewing by lawyers and insurance companies.

Subsequent investigations can build on the information that is contained in Form DMV-349. You can expect that the insurance company will launch their own investigation, giving credence to what the police officer wrote since police officers have natural credibility. All investigations will rely on the initial information that the officer provided in the report.

The accident report can be used when you are filing an insurance claim. There. The officer’s observations are important, and the insurance companies may use them as they determine who was liable for the crash. The police officer may offer their own conclusions on which driver may have been responsible for the accident, even if they do not give one of them a traffic ticket.

Police Reports Are Hearsay at Trial

However, there is a limit to the use of the police report. If your case goes to court, your use of the police report will be limited. The report is a written document that contains the officer’s observations. In a civil trial, the police report may be considered hearsay because the report itself will testify to what the officer saw. Hearsay is not allowed to be used at trial. Nonetheless, you still want a police accident report in your hands because it can be valuable.

The car crash report can be a double-edged sword. The officer will write down their observations about what they saw when they showed up at the scene. They may draw a diagram of the wreckage and the position of the cars when they crashed or pulled over to the side of the road. However, the car crash report may raise issues of contributory negligence. In North Carolina, if you are found to bear any of the blame for the car accident, you cannot recover any financial compensation for your injuries.

As you can see, the car crash report is a critical document that you will need when you seek financial compensation. If, for some reason, the officer did not come to the scene of an accident, you should fill out your own crash form so that it is on file. The crash report may be the first thing that the insurance companies review when they are trying to determine liability.

Call a Wilmington Car Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car crash, you need a tough and experienced attorney to help you get financial compensation if you can prove that someone else was to blame. Your car accident lawyer can then work to maximize your check for your injuries. The hardworking lawyers at Horton & Mendez are here for you when you need us. Call us today at (910) 668-8067 or message us online for your free initial legal case review.


What do I need to prove to win a car accident case?

You must show that the other driver was negligent in the events surrounding the crash.

What if I was unable to take pictures of the accident scene?

You should call a lawyer right after the crash, and they can perform an accident investigation.

Do I need a car accident attorney?

While there is no legal requirement for a car accident lawyer, your case is certainly much better off when you have one.

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