If you’re in a car accident in Texas, you are bound by law to report the accident to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) if a police officer isn’t present at the scene and the accident has resulted in injury, death, or damage to property or vehicles exceeding $1000.
In most cases, the police officer will be at the crime scene and fill out a written report, known as a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report — or form CR-3.
But once the report is created and filed, that’s not the end of the story. If your accident wasn’t your fault and you intend to pursue compensation against the other driver or third party for your injuries, you’ll need a copy of your crash report.
What Is the Texas Accident Report?
Your crash report — or vehicle accident report — is one of the most important pieces of evidence you need for a successful personal injury claim. It’s around this evidence that much of your claim is based — what happened, how it happened, what injuries you sustained, and, vitally, who was responsible. Insurance companies use this document to determine who is liable for an accident.
Your car accident lawyer in McAllen or San Antonio will make sure it’s correct — and contact the police to set the record straight if it isn’t — and use it to ensure you get the maximum possible compensation.
How to Get Your Texas Crash Report
Due to the confidential nature of driver’s crash reports, they are not available for online viewing to the general public. This means you’ll need to request a copy of the CR-3 Texas crash report filed by law enforcement via the Texas Department of Transportation Crash Records Information System (CRIS). This is easy to do using the TXDOT system, and you’ll need to pay a small fee to access the report.
Alternatively, you can provide a written request.
You’ll also need to fill in some information so that the information system can identify your crash — otherwise, you won’t be able to purchase a report. Usually, one of the following will suffice:
- The legal name of a driver involved in the accident.
- The driver’s license number or ID of a driver involved (this is an 8-digit number on the front of the card, at the top).
- The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of a vehicle involved in the motor vehicle accident. You can find this 17-digit number on the car — usually on the front of the dashboard or door pillar on the driver’s side — or on your vehicle’s registration and insurance documents.
- The eight-digit Texas Department of Transportation Crash ID is assigned after the accident, which is provided to the investigating officer after submitting their report. You can get this number from the law enforcement agency that investigated your car crash.
When using the online purchase system to get a copy of a crash report, you have several payment options.
A regular report copy will cost $6, while affidavit and subpoena requests and certified copies require an $8 fee. A certified copy is required if you need an official document, such as for a legal proceeding, so this is the option you will need to select.
Who Can Access Crash Reports?
Of course, if you’re in an accident on one of the many Texas roadways, you can access your report, but drivers aren’t the only ones who can access crash reports.
Since 2015, when the 84th Texas Legislature began, Section 550.065 of the Texas Transportation Code has allowed the release of crash reports to anyone with a “proper interest” in the accident. This includes an authorized representative of a person involved in the accident — such as an attorney —as well as an employer, legal guardian, or parent of a person involved.
This means your car accident lawyer can request this information on your behalf.
What Happened to Texas DOT Crash Report CR-2?
Previously, individuals in a car crash — or their insurance agent or legal representative — were required to complete a crash report and submit it to the Texas Department of Transport. This report, Form CR-2 (also known as “The Blue Form”), included information such as:
- Where and when the accident happened
- The personal details (name, address, and date of birth) of those involved
- The driver’s license details of those involved in the accident
- The name and address of all insurance policyholders
- Details of the insurance policy (or policies) held
- What happened during the vehicle accident
- The weather and road conditions present during the accident.
However, on September 1, 2017, Senate Bill 312 amended the legislature, and form CR-2 is no longer required or retained by the Texas DOT.
Reading Your Texas Crash Report
Once you or your attorney have a copy of your driver’s crash report, how do you read it? A standard Texas accident report is four pages long and contains a wealth of information about your car accident. These are complex documents that play a vital role in your personal injury claim, so it’s vital that the information presented is correct.
Page One: An Overview of Your Accident
The first page of your Texas crash report provides a general overview of your accident, including where it happened and the first two parties (such as pedestrians or cyclists) or drivers involved.
Page one also documents injuries known to the investigating officer when the report was written. These are often visible injuries, such as wounds, but this is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to your injuries. Your medical records are just as vital for successfully claiming compensation and can provide a more accurate picture of your injuries (including those that develop later, such as concussion and whiplash).
What to look out for: Page one of your Texas accident report will contain various codes. These indicate whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the accident and whether they were wearing a seatbelt or helmet. It’s vital to check these codes are correct, as they help determine who is liable.
Page 2: Injuries, Citations, and Contributing Factors
Page two of your Texas crash report provides more detail on the injuries of those involved, where victims were taken after the accident, and who by. Additional pages are used if there are more injuries or deaths than space to document them, so if your crash report is longer than the standard four pages, this is likely why.
There is also a space for the investigating officer to list any citations against any driver. This can be used to attribute liability for the accident, but another driver can still be at fault even if they aren’t issued a citation.
What to look out for: One of the most interesting parts of this page is the “contributing factors” section. Here, the officer will note any potential factors that led to the accident, such as a driver being fatigued or asleep at the wheel, turning improperly, or using a cell phone. There is also space for the officer to write a narrative of the accident and draw diagrams. This section is typically a “catch-all” space for details that don’t fit elsewhere in the report. Look at this section carefully, paying particular attention to the contributing factors and narrative, as this will help determine who is responsible for your car accident.
Pages 3 & 4: Texas Accident Report Codes
The final two pages of your Texas crash report outline the accident report codes available to the investigating officer. These are used throughout your report to explain crucial details, including:
- The roadway system (such as interstate, US highway, county road, or private road)
- The vehicle color (options include black, beige, yellow, other, and unknown)
- The body style of the vehicle (options include two or four-door passenger cars, pick-ups, buses, motorcycles, and trucks)
- The driver’s license class (A, B, etc.) and ID type (driver’s license, commercial driver, unlicensed, etc.)
- The severity of the injuries (such as incapacitating injury, possible injury, killed, or unknown)
- The ethnicity and sex of those involved
- Whether restraints (shoulder belt, lap belt, child booster seat, etc.) were present and used, and if the airbag was deployed
- Whether a helmet was worn and the condition of that helmet (options include worn, damaged; and worn, not damaged)
- The alcohol and drug specimen types, used to determine if a person involved in the crash was intoxicated (options include blood, breath, refused, and none)
- Whether the drug test was positive, negative, not applicable, or unknown, and the drug category, if relevant (such as multiple drugs, cannabis, hallucinogens, or narcotics)
- The light (dark, daylight, dawn, dusk, etc.) and weather conditions (such as clear, cloudy, rain, sleet/hail, snow, or fog)
- Any auto defects (options include defective or no headlamps, defective or no vehicle brakes, and defective steering mechanism).
The contributing factors and conditions deserve special mention here. There are 65 possible report codes a law enforcement officer can choose from when establishing their narrative and determining how the accident might have happened.
- Report Code 20: Driver inattention
- Report Code 22: Failed to control the speed
- Report Code 40: Fatigued or asleep
- Report Code 45: Had been drinking
- Report Code 61: Speeding — (Over limit)
- Report Code 62: Taking medication
- Report Code 66: Turned when unsafe
- Report Code 67: Under the influence — Alcohol
- Report Code 68: Under the influence — Drugs
- Report Code 72: Cell/Mobile phone use
- Report Code 73: Road rage.
Together with the narrative and diagram of the accident, these codes can form a clear picture of how the accident happened and what factors were at play.
If your Texas accident report documents your incapacitating injuries and shows that the other driver was intoxicated and speeding, this would be valuable for your personal injury claim, as it helps show that they were liable.
However, if the report also indicated that you were fatigued while driving or that you were following too closely, you can begin to see how this could affect your claim. The other party’s lawyer or insurance company — who will also have access to your crash report — could infer that you were responsible for your accident, which could impact how much compensation you’re entitled to.
If you need help accessing or reading your Texas crash report, get in touch with our car accident lawyers in San Antonio and McAllen. We can help you understand your report and claim the compensation you deserve.