According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 58,419 traffic accidents in the City of Houston in 2020. (TXDOT, Crashes and Injuries, Cities and Towns, 2020). These crashes involve more than 100,000 people each year.
Car accident reports are commonly created after car crashes and usually include the investigating officer’s investigation and conclusions about who caused the collision. Each report contains a lot of information, and it can be hard to know how to interpret your report. Knowing how to read your accident report can be critical to getting fair treatment after a crash. Below, our lawyers explain some of the basics of reading and understanding your Houston car accident report.
How to Get a Houston Car Accident Report Form
A Houston car accident report form is the same form used for car accident reports throughout Texas:
You may get a car accident report from the Houston Police Department. You may also get a car accident report from the Texas Department of Transportation. Other common investigating agencies include local constables and sheriff’s offices.
A standard form is used, and the City of Houston submits its reports to TxDOT. If you get a copy of the crash report, it should look the same as this form.
Interpreting Your Houston Car Accident Report Form
A Houston Car Accident Report Form gathers the who, what, when, where, and why the accident occurred. The report is divided into sections:
- Identification and Location: The report’s identification section records the crash’s date and time. The county and city where it occurs are identified along with the street, intersecting roads, and any unique situations like a construction zone or workers present.
- Vehicle, Driver, and Persons: This section lists the people involved in the crash as well as vehicle information. Information is listed in detail, including the VIN numbers, license information, vehicle descriptions, and various personal details, like whether the person was wearing a helmet and whether drugs or alcohol were suspected.
- Disposition of Injured/Killed: Records injuries or deaths that result from the accident.
- Charges: Identifies whether charges or citations were issued because of the crash.
- Damage: Damaged property other than vehicles is recorded here. Damage to vehicles is recorded in the Vehicle, Driver, and Persons section.
- CMV (Commercial Motor Vehicle): The information is recorded if the crash involves a commercial vehicle. The report discloses the business involved, their address, and whether the vehicle was transporting hazardous materials.
- Factors and Conditions: This section notes factors that may have contributed to the crash. The report states that the factors listed are the investigating officer’s opinion. The officer may identify a factor as contributing or that it may have contributed. Environmental and roadway conditions are specifically called out, including weather, lighting, and surface conditions that may have been a factor in the crash.
- Narrative and Diagram: The officer may write a narrative of what happened to cause the crash. This is an open section where the officer may write whatever they think is necessary. There is no guidance on what they must include, and they may attach additional pages if the space on the form isn’t enough. Next to the narrative, there is a space for the officer to draw a diagram of the crash. A note indicates that the diagram is not expected to be to scale.
- Investigator: Who investigates the crash and creates the crash report must be noted at the bottom of the crash form. The investigator must state when they investigated the crash and made the report. (If there is a significant time discrepancy between the investigation and report, it may call the credibility of certain elements of the report into question.) The officer must state their identification number and the agency they work for.
Is a Texas Car Accident Report Admissible in Court?
Texas allows car accident reports to be admitted into court proceedings as an exception to the hearsay rule. Whether or not the police officer testifies, the car accident report may be admitted as a public record under Texas Rule of Evidence 803(8), creating a hearsay exception for public records. See Sciarrilla v. Osborne, 946 S.W.2d 919, 923-24 (Tex.App.-Beaumont 1997); Carter v. Steere Tank Lines, Inc., 835 S.W.2d 176, 181 (Tex.App.-Amarillo 1992)
However, the judge in your case may decide to exclude portions of the report for various reasons. These rulings vary case by case.
What if I disagree with the car accident report?
Knowing that the car accident report is admissible in court, you must carefully evaluate the statements in it. Keep in mind that the statements are the observations of the officer who makes the report. They are not the judge or the finder of fact in the case. Their statements may be challenged.
If their statements need to be challenged, you must carefully work to gather evidence contradicting the officer’s statements in the report. Even though jurors aren’t supposed to give extra weight to a person’s testimony because they’re a law enforcement officer, it can be hard to overcome the bias of what’s written in the report. Don’t overlook the importance of evaluating and preparing to challenge the report where necessary. A lawyer may present other witnesses, admit tangible evidence, and cross-examine the law enforcement officer to call their statements into question when necessary.
Is My Car Accident Report Going to Be Redacted?
In Texas, a car accident report is available unredacted to any person who is personally involved or interested in the police report. People personally interested aren’t just those in the accident. A vehicle owner, parent of a minor, or insurance company may also receive an unredacted copy.
If a person requesting a report does not fall into one of the categories listed in Texas Transportation Code § 550.065(c)(4), the report they receive is going to be redacted. Certain personal information will be withheld, including the names of the people involved, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, and other sensitive information. For a complete list of redacted information, see Texas Transportation Code § 550.065(f)(2).
Car Accident Lawyers in Houston
It’s important to understand what a car accident report says, what it can do for you, and what it can’t do for you. The report is extremely important, but you must know how to use it to your advantage.