How to Read an Accident Report

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Last modified on February 22, 2023

An accident report displayed on a laptop with two people.

If an officer arrives at the scene of an accident to investigate, they should write an accident report and file it with the appropriate agency. Accident reports often contain information about an accident, including who is at fault.

However, the details are the investigating officer’s opinions. They’re not necessarily factual or indicative of who should be liable for injuries. The insurance company might depend on the report to avoid accepting liability for their policyholder and deny the claim. They can investigate and find evidence to blame the injured party instead.

Knowing how to read and interpret an accident report can benefit your personal injury case. Below is each part of a standard accident report in South Carolina.

Sections in a South Carolina Accident Report

You can find basic details about the accident on page one of the report.

Incident Number

The incident number identifies the case. It’s in the upper left-hand corner of the page. You should refer to this number while speaking to the Department of Public Safety or requesting a copy of the report.

Location of the Accident

Information regarding the accident location is also at the top of the first page. You can find details such as:

  • Address of the accident
  • Intersection roads
  • Directions of travel for each car involved

Personal Information

Below the accident location section is an area for personal information. Basic details about everyone involved in the crash are in this section. It includes each person’s name, driver’s license number, contact information, and insurance company. You will see personal information for every driver, passenger, pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorcyclist.

Accident Description

The accident description section is where the investigating officer can describe what happened. The officer can indicate each party’s actions in the moments leading up to the accident and what they did afterward. They can also provide a drawing or diagram as a visual guide.

Police Officer Information

The next section includes details about the investigating officer, including the officer’s name, rank, and badge number. This information might not seem important, but knowing who investigated the accident can be helpful. If there’s a question of liability, the cop might provide a statement indicating who they believe is at fault. Or they can testify about the accident in court.

Injuries

You can find the injuries section at the top of page two of the accident report. It mentions the injuries each person sustained in the crash. The section also includes information such as:

  • Occupant ejection
  • Airbag deployment
  • Hospital transport
  • Seat belt use

Law enforcement can’t know the severity of a person’s injuries. They don’t have medical experience or training. The details they include about injuries are what they observe while at the scene. That’s why additional evidence is crucial in a personal injury case. The officer might assume you didn’t get hurt because you’re walking around, but a doctor can discover internal injuries at the hospital.

Sequence of Events

The section below the injury section is for the officer to write down a timeline of the accident. They can rely on eyewitness statements and evidence they find at the crash site to reconstruct events leading up to the accident.

Presence of Alcohol or Drugs

Law enforcement will indicate whether they administered chemical tests to any driver involved in the collision. They will also mention whether the tests returned positive for alcohol or drugs.

Contributing Factors

The next section is about contributing factors. Contributing factors can help show what might have caused the accident and who is at fault. The officer can indicate whether a particular driver engaged in behaviors such as distracted driving, tailgating, or speeding.

The officer can also use the contributing factors section of the page to describe environmental factors and road hazards. They can mention debris in the middle of the road or adverse weather that might have contributed to the crash.

Vehicle Defects

Sometimes, a defective vehicle or part leads to an accident. In this section, the officer can take note of defects, such as faulty brakes. Although information about defects is important, it doesn’t always mean it’s the reason for the crash.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Murphy Crantford Meehan fights for the rights of accident victims. With over 50 years of combined personal injury experience, we know how to handle cases successfully. We will provide personal attention during every aspect of the legal process. You will be our top priority and receive ongoing guidance and support while we handle your case.

If you were injured in an accident someone else caused, contact Murphy Crantford Meehan immediately. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys are ready to speak with you. Call us today at (843) 396-3674 for a free consultation.

Related:

Can a Minor Car Accident Cause Injuries

When to Sue for Personal Injury

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