Understanding Your Auto Accident Report

Were you recently involved in a motor vehicle accident? When it comes to filing a claim and getting the compensation you deserve, obtaining a copy of your accident report is crucial. As auto accident attorneys, we often hear from our clients that accident reports can be hard to understand. As a resource to you, Nagle & Associates, P.A. has broken down how to understand your North Carolina auto accident report.

View Our Police Report Decoder

This simple form will help you to easily see the officer's findings and opinion on who caused your accident, and the code form will also help you understand all of the officers notations. If you need help understanding your report, please call and we will review your report with you.

The police officer who responded to the scene of your accident will fill out your accident report. They will survey the scene and interview all parties involved to get the information they need to complete this report. In some cases, other law enforcement officers might contribute to the report – for example, officers who are experienced in accident scene investigations.

It has become more difficult to obtain Police Reports that are prepared by the North Carolina HIghway Patrol. In most cities and counties, a free report will be available directly at the Police Department or Sheriff's Office. Also, most larger towns and cities make their Police Reports available online. If a State Trooper investigated the collision, the only way to secure a copy of the report is to submit a written request with a $5.00 payment directly to the Department of Motor Vehicle. Our firm gladly covers this charge for you. If you need a copy of your Police Report, call us today and we will get a free copy to you by mail, fax or email on the next business day.

Click here to request a copy of your North Carolina crash report from the DMV.

What is included on the accident report?

Your accident report will have many components, such as information on:

  • The names of the drivers involved.
  • The owners of the vehicles.
  • The road and/or weather conditions at the time of the crash.
  • The types (make and model) of the vehicles involved.
  • A summary of what happened ("contributing circumstances").

This is perhaps the most important field on your auto accident report, because it is what insurance companies use when determining liability. For example, in the contributing circumstances section of the report, the officer may have indicated that one of the drivers was speeding, but the other was texting and distracted. Per North Carolina's contributory negligence laws, both drivers may be held partially responsible for causing the collision.

Reading Your Auto Accident Report

If you have requested a copy of your accident report and received it, you may have noticed that most of the report is in code. By in large, these reports are not written in laymen's terms so it may be difficult to read and understand. Below are step-by-step instructions for reading and understanding your report.


Boxes #14-19

It may not seem logical, but start reading your report at boxes #14-19. This is where the contributing factors will be located. However, you will not see a description of the driver errors, but will see numbers. These numbers correspond to different crash factors. To interpret the numbers you see in boxes 14-19, view the Accident Index Guide.


Sections 37-40: Alcohol or Drug Use

View Section 37 of your auto accident report to learn which, if any, of the drivers was suspected of drug and/or alcohol use. Section 38 will indicate whether law enforcement tested the suspected driver to see if they were positive for drugs or alcohol. Section 39 will list any vehicle seizure/tows that happened as the result of a positive drug or alcohol test. Finally, section 40 indicates whether any of the drivers were arrested for drunk driving.


Section 20: CMV Involvement

This part of your accident report will only be filled out if your auto accident involved a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) such as a big rig, semi-truck or tractor trailer.


General Information on the People Involved

Boxes 21-32 list information about the people involved, such as the drivers, passengers and any other injured party (i.e. pedestrians or bicyclists). This information includes dates of birth, gender, and whether or not seat belts were used.


For a complete list of what the number codes on your accident form mean, view the NC DOT DMV-349 Instructional Manual.

Still have questions? Contact Nagle & Associates, P.A.!

As accident attorneys, we understand that the time after an accident can be difficult. Our law firm can be there with you every step of the way to guide you through the process and ensure that you get the best result possible. For a free initial consultation with us, contact Nagle & Associates, P.A. today!

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