How To Read A West Virginia Accident Report
When police respond to a car accident in West Virginia, they conduct a preliminary investigation and file a report that serves as an objective record of what happened. Afterward, if you want to pursue an insurance claim or a legal claim against the driver who caused a car accident, your case would start with the police report.
It is important to be able to know how to read an accident report because a properly completed State of West Virginia Uniform Traffic Crash Report contains a wealth of information. If anything on it is incorrect, you should have it corrected. At Jividen Law Offices, our Wheeling auto accident lawyers can obtain the police report from the car accident you were in to assess your claim and begin to build a case for you.
If you have been injured in a car crash in West Virginia that was not your fault, you should speak to one of our experienced car accident attorneys about pursuing the compensation you need to cover your medical bills. We have a 35-year-plus track record of helping West Virginians who have suffered significant personal injuries regain control of their lives and move forward.
Let’s take a look at how to read a police accident report and what you can find in West Virginia car accident reports.
- Date, time, and location. This is basic but crucial information. Make sure what is recorded here is accurate. An insurance company could deny your claim based on inaccurate information about the accident date or location.
- If the information here or anywhere else on the form is inaccurate, contact Jividen Law Offices, PLLC, immediately. We can help you get the report corrected.
- Type of road and collision. The next five boxes on the form ask the officer to identify the class of road (interstate, state road, city street) and intersection type and provide other locating information.
Then a list asks for the type of collision: single-vehicle crash, rear end, head-on, sideswipe, rear-to-side, rear-to-rear, and four types of angle crashes.
- Cause of crash. Eight lists ask the officer to indicate: environmental factors (glare, animals on the road), weather conditions (clear, rain, fog), lighting condition, road conditions, type of road surface, and the first harmful event in the collision.
- Contributing circumstances. The officer may choose up to three factors out of 10 regarding road conditions, such as debris, holes, bumps, and problem with a traffic control device. There are additional checklists to indicate a school zone or a work zone.
- Narrative. The police officer writes his or her description of what happened. The insurance company will give a lot of weight to the description when determining who was at fault for the accident.
- Crash diagram. This is a rudimentary drawing of the crash scene. It is also very important. Insurance companies have been known to base their decisions on whether they’ll approve or deny an accident claim on the crash diagram.
If you have any issues with the accuracy of the Narrative or Crash Diagram, contact a lawyer immediately.
At the bottom of Page 2, the responding officer lists their name and agency and signs the report. You should be able to contact the officer who signed the report to correct any inaccuracies you find. They will require proof of the error.
- Vehicle information. This is detailed information about each vehicle involved in the accident, including make, model, year, ownership, and registration. It also has a checklist for the direction each vehicle was traveling at the time of the crash and the presence of traffic lights or other traffic controls.
- Crash avoidance and vehicle damage. Checklists indicate the direction of the vehicle and what the driver did to avoid a collision, such as braking or swerving. The officer can also indicate whether the crash occurred in a curve or a hill and list the suspected vehicle speed.
The “Extent of Damage” checklist includes “No Damage” and “minor,” “functional,” and “disabling” damage.
Crash events and diagrams. This page provides five different diagrams depicting the types of vehicles involved in the crash (cars, motorcycles, passenger vehicles with towing units, buses, and tractor-trailers).
- Driver information. Data collected about each driver includes name, date of birth, address, phone number, driver’s license state, driver’s license restrictions, actions that contributed to the crash, such as speeding or failure to yield, and a separate section for indicating driver distractions such as cell phone use.
- Alcohol involvement. Here, the officer indicates suspected alcohol or drug use and the results of sobriety tests. Check for this information if you think the other driver in the accident was impaired If this area is not filled in but should be, let a lawyer know.
- Traffic citations. If either driver is cited for a traffic offense, it will be indicated here. A guilty verdict against the other driver does not cinch a personal injury claim, but it is helpful.
Driver statement. The officer will ask each driver what happened and will summarize their statements here. Check to see whether your statement was recorded accurately and whether the other driver indicated their fault or made statements you can show to be untrue.
Passenger information. If there were passengers in either vehicle, they will be identified here, along with information about injuries, use of seat belts, and deployment of airbags. The officer will also indicate whether any passenger was transported to a hospital.
Driver statement. This is a page available for each driver to provide a statement about what happened. You can decline to write a statement. It is better to talk to an attorney before completing this section of the report.
Pages 9 and 10
Non-motorist information. These pages are for information about pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorists involved in traffic accidents.
Pages 11 and 12
Commercial vehicles. Here, the officer records specialized information about large trucks, buses, and commercial vans and their drivers involved in accidents. This includes contact information for the company that employs the commercial driver.
Large diagram. The final page provides space for the officer to make a large illustration of the accident, as necessary. If there is a drawing here, compare it to Page 2 and to your knowledge of the crash.
Schedule A Free Case Review with Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys
At the accident scene, you should ask the officer how to get a copy of the accident report and do so as soon as possible. In the meantime, contact Jividen Law Offices, PLLC, to schedule a free initial legal consultation about a potential car accident claim. If you have the accident report, we’ll review it with you and can help you get any mistakes corrected. Contact us today.