How to Read a California Car Accident Report
California Vehicle Code Section 20008 requires individuals involved in an accident causing injuries or loss of life to report the incident within 24 hours.
So if you or your loved one are involved in a California car crash, it is in your best interests to obtain a written report to the Department of the California Highway Patrol or the police department of the city where the accident occurred. You can call 911, and the officer that responds to your emergency call will be able to file a report of the accident.
But it is important to receive an accident report from law enforcement and know how to interpret it or how it may impact your case. Many people do not even know they have the right to request a copy of their accident report.
If you are injured in a California car accident, you should ask for a copy of the report immediately after receiving it. This way, you will know what information has been included in the report and whether any red flags indicate that the other driver’s insurance company might obscure evidence of negligence.
Contact LA Century to review your car accident case and preserve its integrity.
What is a California Accident Report?
A California car accident report (known as the CHP 555) is a document prepared by law enforcement officers following an investigation into an automobile collision. It includes basic information about the accident, such as the time, date, location, weather conditions, traffic flow, speed limits, and road conditions. It also contains details about the vehicles involved, including make, model, year, color, license plate number, and registration number.
Other critical data captured in the California accident report may include the following:
- Witness details and testimonies
- Approximate damage from the crash
- Details of the collision, i.e., was it a vehicle rollover, rear-end collision, etc.?
- Any other info collected by the officer at the scene
The importance of this report to your personal injury claim can be considerable. Though not admissible most of the time as proof of liability in court, the CHP 555 is usually a reliable source of evidence that may be used against the other party’s insurance carrier.
For example, if the other driver fails to provide their insurance card when asked, the CHP 555 will contain the insurance provider’s name. If the other driver refuses to answer questions during the investigation, the CHP 555 may reveal the identity of witnesses and other parties at the scene.
Who Can Request a Copy of a California Car Accident Report?
If you are involved in a California auto accident, you have the legal right to obtain a copy of your accident report. But first, you must submit a written request (CHP 190 form) to the police or the DMV to release the information. In addition, any other party involved in the crash or interested in the details of the accident may also request a copy of the CHP 550.
You should note, however, that requesting the CHP traffic collision report costs money. For instance, you will pay $10 for 25 pages of reports and $40 for 75–100 pages.
A typical report from the CHP is four pages long.
The Basics of Reading a California Collision Report
We’ll now focus on how to read a California police accident report. Use these tips to verify the circumstances of your accident are correct.
Ensure the date is accurate
First things first, make sure that the date on the report matches the date of the accident. This comes in handy when determining essential deadlines like the statute of limitations. You’ll want to confirm that the police made no mistake in their recording, considering that even a slight error in the day, month, or year of the accident may impact the case.
Confirm that the location is correct
Next, check whether the location indicated on the report is correct. If you notice any mismatch, you’ll want to address the matter with your lawyer or the police department that made the report for immediate action.
Did the police department take any photos?
There is a section in the report form designated for the names of the officer(s) that took any photographs. So if the officer responding to your emergency call took pictures, you want to check that the section is filled out. You may also request copies of the photos taken. If the section is blank or marked none, you still want to confirm with the police department if any pictures were taken.
Party identifications – P1
The first page of the report also has a section identifying the names, addresses, and other vital information of those involved in the accident. Keeping track of these people is essential because they may become relevant later in the process. Some courts even require that you identify each person before trial so that the opposing side can subpoena them.
Vehicle information and owner’s information
Here you get to learn about the vehicle involved in the accident. Make sure that this information is accurate. For example, did the police write down the license plate number correctly? Also, you want to ensure that the vehicle’s owner was adequately identified.
If the vehicle’s owner differs from the driver who caused the accident, it should be well-documented in this section. In that case, your lawyer should investigate any additional insurance coverages that either party may have to avoid missing out on potential recovery sources.
Primary collision factor
This section of the crash report details which party was the primary collision factor and what vehicle code they likely violated. For example, if the officer filing the report finds another driver at-fault, they will indicate that they are the primary collision factor. They will then list the specific traffic violation committed.
Other associated factors
In this section, the police will detail any other factor believed to have contributed to the accident. These include weather conditions, road conditions, speed limits, etc. The more information you can gather here, the better off you’ll be. You and your lawyer should pay close attention to this section, as it may come in handy during the trial if the other party disputes liability.
Witness and passenger information
If anyone witnessed the accident, their name, contact info, and description of the incident should be included here. This includes witnesses who saw the crash happen and passengers in the car.
Contact LA Century Law Today
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, you need experienced legal help. At LA Century Law, we understand how difficult it is to deal with personal injury claims alone. From making sense of the car accident report to finding the right medical treatment, our lawyers can help you navigate the process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
California Accident Report FAQs
When does the California accident report become useful?
Although the report is usually inadmissible in a civil case, your attorney can use it to gather the names of witnesses and victims. Your attorney can also subpoena them for depositions or court appearances.
Why aren’t police reports admissible in a California car accident case?
Police reports aren’t usually admissible because the courts consider them hearsay. However, your attorney can still use the report to gather witness and victim information.