How Can Texas Crash Reports Help Your Car Accident Claim?
After an accident, you can get a crash report from the Texas Department of Transportation. You will have to order the crash report as they are not available for public viewing due to privacy concerns. You will need a copy of the crash report to collect damages if you suffered injuries or to repair your vehicle after an accident, as insurance companies usually ask for copies. A crash report also helps your attorney investigate the case.
Why the Texas Department of Transportation Has My Crash Report
Texas Transportation Code §550.062 requires law enforcement officers to submit their crash investigation reports to the Department of Transportation if the damage to property or a person looks as though it is $1,000 or higher and if the accident occurred on a state highway or public road. The officer has 10 days from the date of the crash to submit his or her report.
In September 2017, the Texas Legislature created legislation that stated that the Department of Transportation would no longer accept crash reports filed on Form CR-2. The Department of Transportation will hold all crash reports filed on Form CR-2 for the 10 years it is required to hold them.
As of Sept. 2017, officers must use the new Form CR-3 to report accidents to the Department of Transportation if he or she feels that the accident caused $1,000 or more in damage to property or a person.
Crash Report Contents
The crash report contains your name, the date and time of the wreck, county, city, and street or address location, the speed limit of the road at the location of the wreck, and whether the wreck was in a construction zone.
The report also includes a section to identify a cross street, a description of the vehicle, and information about the drivers of the vehicles involved. In the following sections, the report provides:
- The names of those injured or killed;
- Where the injured or killed were taken (which hospital or morgue); and
- Who took the injured or killed to the hospital.
The report also lists damages, information about any commercial motor vehicles involved, and factors that might have contributed to the accident. Finally, the report provides space for the officer’s accident diagram, a narrative written by the officer, and witnesses along with their contact information.
Does a Crash Report Always Designate Fault?
A crash report is an officer’s opinion of what happened to cause the crash, based on what he hears from the plaintiff, the defendant, and the witnesses. In some cases, a crash report could show that a plaintiff was at fault for the accident, but a subsequent investigation might show otherwise. Thus, even if the crash report lists you as the person at fault, you should still contact a car accident attorney to review the crash report and possibly conduct a thorough investigation of the crash.
Fighting the Insurance Company
Even if you do not provide the insurance company with a copy of the crash report, it will obtain the report itself. Depending on the circumstances, the insurance company might conduct its own investigation into the crash. However, keep in mind that insurance companies—even your own—are not necessarily going to look out for your best interests.
The insurance company is in business to make money. Thus, it will look out for its own interests, and that may mean finding a reason to deny a claim or to offer as little as possible.
After an accident, you should give only your contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information to the insurance company. Never answer any questions, regardless of how hard the insurance company pressures you and regardless of how innocent you believe you are. You could be 100 percent innocent in a crash, but the insurance company may find a way to use what you say against you to deny your claim or offer you a pittance that might not cover your medical expenses.
How Long Before I Can Collect Damages?
The length of time your case takes can depend on:
- The contents of the accident report and whether the officer’s opinion is correct.
- The number of defendants involved in the accident.
- Whether one or more of the defendants was a commercial vehicle driver.
- The length of time an insurance company takes to respond to demand letters for settlement.
- Whether the insurance company accepts a fair and reasonable offer.
- Whether you decide to abandon settlement negotiations and litigate your case.
- The accessibility of contact information for all parties involved and for all witnesses.
Your attorney can let you know the status of your case as it progresses. He or she will also help you decide whether you should continue negotiations or proceed to litigation. However, it is ultimately your choice as to whether you want to take the insurance company’s best offer or to go forward with litigation.
The crash report may or may not give the officer’s opinion as to whether you suffered catastrophic injuries. If it does, it can only help your case, but if it does not, it would not hurt your case since a police officer is not a doctor. The officer only writes down what he or she sees or what the emergency medical technicians might tell him or her. However, no one can know your condition until a doctor sees you. You might look fine on the outside but could have traumatic brain injuries or internal injuries that people cannot see without a scan, an X-ray, or other tests and bloodwork.
If you suffered injuries in a car crash, be sure to obtain a copy of your crash report and contact a car accident attorney for a free case evaluation.