If you’ve been involved in an accident, you probably know by now that the collision itself was just the beginning.
You may be getting calls from the insurance company and their adjusters.
Your medical bills could be piling up.
Your car might still be in the tow yard or even worse, sitting in your driveway waiting to be inspected for repairs.
By now, you’re not sure what to do or what to expect. On top of all of this, you just don’t know how to read the Traffic Collision Report the police made at the scene of the accident.
What is most important for you to know about traffic collision reports?
At the outset, the most important thing to understand about a police traffic collision report is that it is not admissible at trial as evidence. Just because there might be information in the police report, it doesn’t make it true.
For example, if the police report puts you at fault for the accident, don’t worry! The report itself is not evidence, it is merely a report taken by a police officer who is taking statements from the involved parties and/or witnesses. More often than not, police reports are riddled with mistakes, errors, omissions and just flat out wrong information.Order Your Free Police Report
So the takeaway from this post should be that just because a police report might be adverse or have incorrect information, don’t worry about it. Hire a lawyer and law firm that knows how to handle these situations to make sure that the information contained in a police report doesn’t harm your case.
Now, lets get right into the important elements of a police report. Below is a blank California Highway Patrol Traffic Collision Report template. This is the most common form used in traffic accidents throughout California.
How to read a traffic collision report
Blank First Page of Traffic Collision Report
1. Make Sure the Date Is Correct
Perhaps one of the most important parts of the traffic collision report (TCR) is the date of the accident. This is critical when calculating specific deadlines (statute of limitations) set by law that can bar you from filing a claim or lawsuit. When you get your accident report, make sure that the date is correct. Often times, the police officer may inadvertently make a mistake. Just being one day off can jeopardize your entire case.
2. Make Sure the Location is Correct
Check to make sure that the location indicated in the accident report is correct. Should any of the information regarding the location be incorrect, you want to bring it to the attention of your lawyer or the police department who made the report. This might not seem important now, but the exact location of the collision will be a major issue and you want to make sure that the accident report is accurate.
3. Did the Police Take Pictures?
This section will typically indicate whether there were photos taken by the investigating officers. If this section is filled out, make sure you order copies of any photos they took. If its left blank then contact the police department, or make sure your lawyer does to find out if there were any pictures taken. If marked none, you or your lawyer should still call to confirm. These pictures will be very important to your case.
4. Party Identifications – P1
Still on page one of the police report, this section identifies the parties. Party 1 will often be referred to throughout the report as “P1.” The information for this section is generally taken from P1’s Driver’s License and can be out of date. It is important that your lawyer does a background check to find the current address and information if P1 is the other party. Another important part of this section is the “Insurance Carrier” and “Policy Number.” This section is frequently left blank or has inaccurate information. Don’t be discouraged if the insurance information is left blank or says “none.” Our law firm routinely finds insurance information for defendants even though the report may not provide any information or indicate that none was available. Make sure you talk to your lawyer about how to find this information out – and experienced personal injury lawyer will know how.
How to Read Insurance Policy
5. Vehicle Information and Owner’s Information
Still on page one, this section will provide the details of P1’s vehicle information. If the owner of P1’s vehicle is different than the driver then that information will be provided in this section. This is very important especially when looking to determine liability and finding insurance coverage. If the owner is different than the driver, then you or your lawyer should investigate into any additional insurance policies that either one may have. The investigators and lawyers at our law firm are experts in finding this information out and pursuing all potential sources of recovery. Don’t miss this one – very important.
6. Party Identifications – P2
As discussed above for Party 1 (P1), this section provides the identification of the other vehicle involved in the crash and will be referred to throughout the report as P2.
7. Primary Collision Factor
This section will indicate which Party was the primary collision factor and indicate a vehicle code violation. Generally there will be a number (1 or 2) to indicate the party followed by the actual vehicle code the officer believes was violated. If you are found to be at fault, you should read this post on: Police report says I am at fault. What are my rights? You can also find a complete list of California Vehicle Codes at our help center using the button below:California Vehicle Code Search
8. Other Associated Factors
Another very important part of the traffic collision report is on page 2. This section indicates whether the police officer believes that there were other contributory factors that caused the collision. You and/or your lawyer should pay particular attention to this section as it can play a critical role in your case, especially if liability is disputed.
9. Witness and Passenger Information
Probably the most important part of the traffic collision report would be the witness and passenger information. Remember, the police report is NOT evidence and not admissible in a trial as such.
California Vehicle Codes Section 20013. No such accident report shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of an accident, except that the department shall furnish upon demand of any person who has, or claims to have, made such a report or upon demand of any court, a certificate showing that a specified accident report has or has not been made to the department solely to prove a compliance or failure to comply with the requirement that such a report be made to the department.
There are other very important sections on a traffic collision report that should be carefully reviewed and analyzed. You should meet with your lawyer to go over the specifics of each section and what they mean; and how it impacts your case. Statements by parties, witnesses, conclusions, diagrams, drawings, calculations, measurements etc.. are all VERY important. Our law firm routinely faces adverse police reports to which we are able to overcome statements and conclusions by properly conducting our own investigation, discovery, depositions and aggressive litigation.
For a free consultation of your case or a review of your traffic collision report, feel free to contact us today to schedule a time. All consultations are free and there is no obligation whatsoever.Order Your Free Police Report
A highly regarded and well-respected trial lawyer, author and speaker, Reza Torkzadeh is the founder and managing attorney of TorkLaw – a premier plaintiff’s personal injury law firm specializing in complex catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases.
Reza’s performance in and out of the courtroom has earned him several of the industry’s top awards and professional recognitions, and a reputation as an elite litigator. He has earned millions in settlements, verdicts, and judgments for his clients.
If you would like a free consultation, please contact us today.