INVESTIGATION REPORTS IN AUTO ACCIDENT CASE
Auto accidents are usually investigated by a police authority and a report is made. EMS, fire departments, newspapers and television stations may also come to the scene of serious auto accidents and make reports. All of those reports are important. The victim is usually taken from the scene in an ambulance and must rely on reports of others to learn the facts.
In many cases, fault is simple and clear are (1) victim stopped at red light or due to traffic and the defendant crashes into the rear of the victim, (2) defendant is on the wrong side of the road, (3) defendant turns left into the victim, and (4) defendant pulls on to road and collides with victim. In some cases it is not clear what happened or who was at fault.
In most auto accidents an officer from some policing agency (City, Sheriff, or Department of Public Safety) will come to the scene after the fact and conduct an investigation. The officer will fill out and file a “Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (form CR-3).” Such reports provide many details about the drivers, insurance, and factors that caused the accident. Often, the reports will document if a driver was intoxicated or got a traffic ticket. The report may list witnesses to the auto accident. The reports can be obtained from the Texas Department of Transportation, 125 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas 78701-2483.
The starting point in establishing what happened is to get the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report. It has been my experience that the officer that completed that report will stand by his/her findings. The investigating officer is always identified in the report. The next step is to contact the investigating officer and find out if they made and kept field notes. Most of them make field notes that contain a great deal of information that is not included in the report. The field notes often contain the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses who the officer relied on to get the information that goes into the report. Additionally, the officer may have photographs in the field notes.
When the victim is seriously injured and immediately taken away from the scene in an ambulance the investigating officer may never talk to the victim to get the victim’s side of the story. Sometimes the officer will go to the hospital and talk to the victim.
The importance of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report is that it can and usually will be admitted into evidence at a jury trial to determine fault and damages. The investigating officer will usually come to trial and testify about his training and experience investigating auto accidents, and how he went about investigating the auto accident in question. Those officers usually make a very good appearance and are very credible. In my experience, juries will go along with what the investigating officer determined.
Another important investigative report is the report of the Emergency Medical Service team that responded to the scene and transported the victim to the hospital. They make a report that mostly documents the condition of the victim, but they sometimes document information about how the auto accident occurred and how the victim had to be extracted from the vehicle.
Fire departments respond to many serious auto accidents, and they also make reports documenting important information. Many fire fighters take photographs at the scene.
Newspaper and television stations often report and document serious accidents with photographs and video. It is important to obtain such photographs and videotape.