If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, you may have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries, financial losses, and personal suffering. One of the documents you’ll need for your injury claim is the accident report filed following the crash.
Crash reports are drafted by police officers who are called to the scene of the accident to investigate and document important facts regarding the collision. They should include crucial information, such as the name and contact information of the drivers involved in the crash, eyewitness contact information, a description of how the officer believes the crash happened, and who the officer believes to be responsible for the crash. In collisions involving serious bodily injuries or fatalities, the investigating law enforcement agency will probably conduct an accident reconstruction. This is an attempt by the law enforcement agency to recreate the crash including the movement of the vehicles involved in the collision and determine the sequence of events that lead up to the crash.
An experienced Houston truck accident attorney can help you understand how to obtain and use an accident report to support your compensation claim.
For more than 25 years, the Houston truck accident lawyers of The Callahan Law Firm have helped injured people pursue the compensation they need after life-altering truck crashes. Our firm can help you navigate each step of your claim, such as dealing with insurance companies, obtaining accident reports, and using those reports to develop your case to support your claim for injuries and damages.
We intentionally limit the number of cases that our firm handles so that we can provide you with the focus and attention your case deserves. Contact us for a free initial consultation with an experienced Houston truck accident attorney. We’re ready to answer your questions and go to work for you.
How to File an Accident Report in Houston
If you are involved in a truck accident in Houston, one of the first things you should do is contact local authorities to report the truck accident. According to the Texas Transportation Code, you must report an accident to the police department or sheriff’s department if the accident you’re involved in resulted in injury, death, or damage to a vehicle that rendered it unsafe to drive.
The police, as well as emergency medical services, should then arrive at the scene of the crash. The police officer investigating the accident must create a crash report (called a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report or “CR-3”) and submit it to the Texas Department of Transportation within 10 days of the collision if the accident resulted in injury, death, or apparent property damage of $1,000 or more.
At that point, the parties involved in the crash can request a copy of that report.
What to Do at the Scene of the Accident
At the scene of a truck accident, you can take the following steps to begin the process of putting together a legal claim for compensation for injuries and losses that you’ve suffered and to help protect your rights and interests:
- Exchange contact and insurance information with each motorist involved in the accident. Make sure to get information regarding the truck driver’s license, the U.S. DOT number which should be marked on the side of the truck tractor, license plate information, and trucking company information.
- Use your phone to photograph or take videos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, skid marks in the road, lighting and weather conditions, and any visible injuries you may have sustained.
- Get examined by paramedics at the scene or see a doctor at the ER or otherwise seek medical attention as soon as possible. You’ll want any injuries you sustained to be evaluated, documented, and diagnosed as soon as possible after the truck accident. Always follow any treatment recommendations or instructions that you receive.
- Keep copies of bills and invoices for expenses from the accident. Also, consider starting a diary or journal to document your pain, physical limitations, and recovery from your injuries.
- Avoid discussing the accident on social media. Also, try not to post photos or videos of yourself while you’re still undergoing treatment for your injuries. Insurers and defense lawyers like to twist accident victims’ social media posts to try to undercut the credibility of their injury claims.
- Speak to an experienced truck accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash to learn more about your legal rights and what next steps you should take to begin pursuing financial compensation for your losses.
Why Is an Accident Report Important?
If you’ve never been involved in a truck crash or other motor vehicle accident, you may not understand why accident reports can play such an essential role in truck accident claims. For the parties who have to determine what happened in the accident, including the insurance companies, lawyers, judges, and juries, an accident report will provide important information about the crash from a third party (the police officer) who was not involved in the collision and not invested in the outcome of the case
Accident reports filled out by police are often given substantial weight. Police officers can often serve as neutral third parties. Since many of them are trained to investigate motor vehicle accidents, they will often look for and document details from an accident that may go unnoticed by the drivers involved. That said, it’s important to remember that the police do not have the final say about civil liability for a truck crash or other motor vehicle crash. The officers’ investigation and report are just one piece of the puzzle that the parties will use to determine what happened and who is at fault for the crash.
An insurance company will usually conduct its own investigation, and it may come up with a determination that is different from the police officer’s conclusions. If your case goes to court, whether the accident report can be used as evidence in your case will depend on various factors, such as whether the report is considered hearsay or a public record. A skilled attorney with experience in litigating these types of lawsuits can help you determine how to best leverage a police accident report in your case.
What Important Information Does a Police Report Contain?
When the police come to the scene of a truck crash, one of the responding officers will complete a police crash report that documents the officer’s investigation of the accident. Officers will inspect the vehicles involved in the crash, may take photos of the scene and vehicles involved, and talk to drivers, passengers, and witnesses.
The officer will note facts and information uncovered in their investigation, including for example:
- The date, time, and location of the crash
- Information for each motorist involved in the accident, including their names, phone numbers, vehicles involved, license and registration information, and insurance or employer information of the commercial motor vehicle involved.
- Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses
- Details about the damage each vehicle sustained
- Road, weather, and visibility conditions
- Statements or summaries from the parties and witnesses
- A diagram of the accident
- Any photos or videos taken by law enforcement
- Whether any motorists were cited or arrested for the accident
In most instances, the officer will also include their opinion of how the accident happened and which motorist was responsible for causing the crash. Although the officer’s opinion may not have any legally binding effect in terms of the cause of a crash, it can often have a persuasive effect in a later insurance claim or lawsuit.
How Long Do You Have to Report a Truck Accident in Houston?
If you are involved in a truck accident or other motor vehicle accident that results in injury, death, or substantial property damage, you must report the accident to the police immediately, so they can respond to the scene of the accident. The police officer, in turn, will fill out the required CR-3 accident report. If you fail to report an accident that must be reported under Texas law, you may face suspension of your driver’s license in addition to other penalties.
If the crash resulted in injury, death, or more than $1,000 of property damage, the investigating police officer must file their report with the Texas Department of Transportation within 10 business days of the accident. However, reports are often available sooner than that.
In addition to reporting a truck accident to the authorities, your auto insurance company could require you under the terms of your insurance policy to report any accident you are involved in within a certain timeframe, often within 10 to 30 days, depending on the insurance company.
How to Get a Police Report for a Truck Accident in Houston
You can obtain a police crash report for a truck accident that you were involved in from the Texas Department of Transportation, which collects and stores all crash reports filled out by Texas law enforcement officers. Crash reports can be purchased from the Texas Department of Transportation through its online ordering system or by filling out a request form and submitting it by mail. A copy of a crash report costs $6 or $8 if you wish to obtain a certified copy that can be used in a legal proceeding.
Under Texas law, a crash report may only be requested by:
- Any person or motorist involved in the accident, or their authorized representative
- Any employer, parent, or legal guardian of a driver involved in an accident
- The owner of a vehicle or property damaged in the crash
- Any person who has financial responsibility for a vehicle involved in the accident, such as an insurance policyholder for the vehicle
- An insurance company that has issued a policy for a vehicle involved in the accident, or a policy covering any person involved in the accident
- Any person entitled to file a wrongful death suit due to the accident
Crash reports may also be obtained by media outlets or by law enforcement agencies.
Contact a Houston Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you’ve been involved in a truck accident in Houston, its surrounding areas, or anywhere in the state of Texas, reach out to the experienced truck accident attorneys at The Callahan Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation case review. Learn more about how an accident report can make a difference in your truck accident case and how we can gather the crucial information needed to build a strong case for compensation.
Call us or contact us online today. We’re ready to get started.