Understanding Your Auto Accident Report

If you have been in an auto accident, one of the most important things you must do is get a copy of the accident report. The report will be completed by the police officer who responded to the accident, and may include additional input from officers who specialize in traffic investigations. The traffic accident report contains a significant amount of information regarding the crash, including who was driving the vehicles, the owners of the vehicles, road conditions, etc. In North Carolina, the crash report form is called #DMV-349.

The crash report will list any contributing circumstances that were discovered when investigating the accident (there may be multiple causes listed here). These contributing circumstances may include alcohol or drug use (DWI), texting while driving or other forms of distracted driving, reckless driving, etc. In many cases, the contributing circumstances will aid in determining who is at fault in the accident—an important factor under North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence laws.

In most states, including North Carolina, much of the information in the accident report will be listed in code, making it challenging for anyone unfamiliar with the numbers to understand the report.  The auto accident attorneys at Merritt Webb are providing the information below to help drivers understand these sometimes confusing reports.

Durham Auto Accident Attorney - Raleigh, Charlotte, FayettevilleTo read your report, start by looking at the right side of the front page of the police report for the boxes numbered 14-19. Compare the numbers typed in the boxes to the Accident Index Guide. Mistakes made by the driver in “unit 1” (referring to the first vehicle referenced) are described in boxes 14-16; mistakes made by the second driver (“unit 2”) are listed in boxes 17-19. You will also wish to review the following sections on form DMV-349:

NC DMV Crash Report - Section 37A: Section 37 will be marked if alcohol or drug use was suspected. Then, section 38 will indicate whether or not the driver was tested for alcohol or drugs and list the results in Section 39. Finally, the report will indicate whether or not the vehicle was seized due to a positive test result in Section 40. If the driver was arrested at the scene for DWI, a separate arrest report will be completed by the officer.

 NC DMV Crash Report - Section 20

B: Section 20 will be completed if there was a commercial vehicle involved in the crash. Many commercial vehicles are larger and heavier than cars, SUV’s or lightweight pickup trucks, so the possibility of serious injury increases when a tractor trailer is involved. In addition, insurance requirements and other laws regarding commercial vehicles may differ from non-commercial vehicles.

NC DMV Crash Report C: Sections 21-32 provide additional information about the individuals involved in the accident, including passengers, bicyclists or pedestrians, and shows where the vehicles were towed (if needed). The specific boxes show:

  1. Box 21: Which vehicle the person was in (as referenced at the top of the form).
  2. Box 22: Person type, where 1=driver, 2=passenger, 3=pedestrian, 4=pedalcyclist, 5=roller skater or roller blader, 6=other and 7=unknown.
  3. Box 23: Seating position in vehicle.
  4. Box 24: Date of birth.
  5. Box 25: Ethnicity.
  6. Box 26: Gender.
  7. Box 27: Protection used, where 0=none, 1=lap belt only, 2=lap and shoulder belt, 3=shoulder belt only, 4=child restraint, 5=helmet, etc.
  8. Box 28: Air bag deployment, where 0=no airbags, 1=not deployed, 2=deployed front, etc.
  9. Box 29: Air bag switch status.
  10. Box 30: Trapped status, where 1=yes, 2=no, 3=unknown.
  11. Box 31: Ejection status, where 1=not ejected, 2=totally ejected, 3=partially ejected, etc.
  12. Box 32: Injury status, where 1=killed, 2=”A” type injury (disabling), 3=”B” type injury (obvious but not apparently disabling), 4=”C” type injury (victim complains of pain or was unconscious), 5=no injury, 6=unknown.

More detail on understanding the accident report can be found at the North Carolina Department of Transportation website by viewing the Crash Report Form Instructional Manual (DMV-349Instruction).

If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident, you may wish to speak to an accident attorney to learn your rights. If you schedule an appointment, please be certain to bring a copy of your auto accident report and any additional information you have about the crash (photos, witness statements, etc.). Contact Merritt Webb today to learn more.

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