Samuel Saks Article
Understanding an Arizona Crash ReportAn Arizona Crash Report is a series of forms and documents prepared by officers who responded to an accident. The crash report is a written record of the accident from the police officer’s point of view and is the key document that insurance companies will use to make certain decisions about your case or insurance claim. An Arizona Crash Report is a series of forms and documents prepared by officers who responded to an accident. The crash report can be confusing if you are not familiar with its structure and terminology.
Before a Report: The Accident Information Exchange Form. If police officers have responded to the scene of an accident, you will be given an “Accident Information Exchange Form” before you see a crash report. Think of the Accident Information Exchange Form as a preliminary accident report. These forms can differ based on the city that the police officer works for. The Phoenix Police Department Accident Information Exchange Form has an incident number listed on the lower left hand side of the form along with the responding officer information. The form also lists basic information about the accident, including the location of the accident, the names of the drivers involved in the crash, the make, model, license plate numbers of the cars involved, where the vehicles were towed, and whether the accident involved any physical injuries. Keep in mind that officers prepare reports after investigating an accident. The full report may not be available until days or weeks after an accident. In addition, supplements may be issued for certain reports.
Basic information: The Arizona Crash Report form is divided into sections, which are numbered on the left hand side of the page. At the top of the report in section 1 is basic identifying information about the accident. It includes spaces for the year, month, day, and hour of the accident. It lists a National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) number that is used to identify the vehicles involved. It includes an officer ID number which will identify the key responding police officer. Finally, the crash report will have a ten digit Agency Report Number that typically begins with the year and has the following format: “2014-XXXXXX.” This number is important because it will help you locate all the paperwork related to the accident case. Section 2 lists a basic summary of the accident, including the total “units” or vehicles involved, the total injuries, and total fatalities. Section 3 lists the general location of the accident. Section 4 lists the traffic units or vehicles involved. The officer will assign a number to each vehicle involved in the accident (e.g., Traffic Unit no. 1, Traffic Unit no. 2, etc.) The vehicle numbers are shorthand for the officer’s use in writing the narrative, which is perhaps the most important section of a report. For each vehicle, crash report lists driver and ownership information, make, model, and VIN number, and insurance policy information. The crash report will note whether the driver was injured, an estimate of an injury severity, the posted speed limit and the “ofc est speed” which stands for “Official Estimated Speed.” Section 5 lists any passengers who may have been involved in the accident and may assign them a numerical seat position. Section 6 lists any property damaged other than vehicles. Section 7 contains the officer’s name, badge number, and agency, typically the “Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) or local police agency.
The second page of the Arizona Crash Report form lists witnesses and their contact information in section 8. Section 9 lists the citation charges and any vehicle unit that was cited under a provision of the Arizona Revised Statutes (“ARS”) or applicable city code. Beneath section 9, are section blocks 10 through 24, which is a series of small boxes that list information about the accident. There are sections for light condition, weather condition, manner of crash impact, road surface condition, direction of unit travel, contributing circumstances, violations / behavior, road grade, traffic unit maneuver / action, and location of pedestrians. Each item has a check box for a unit number to identify the vehicle to which the item is relevant.
The third page of the report contains section 25 that lists vehicle damaged area(s). There are diagrams for the officer to identify the damage caused to vehicles as a result of the crash. Sections 26 through 30 contain information about the roadway alignment, lane configuration, and any ejections or extrication using the unit number and seat positions from the first page of the report. Section 31 describes the sequence of events leading up to the moment of impact in the accident. The section has pre-assigned numbers to certain events like overturn or rollover, fire / explosion, jackknife, and cargo / equipment loss. On the right lower corner of section 31 is the sequence of events with the applicable unit numbers and sequences filled in. The bottom of page 3 shows and example sequence of events and how the numbers show what happened during the accident.
Accident description (narrative) and crash diagram: The accident report will also have summary or description of the accident including key information like when it happened, who was involved, and a summary of any witness statements or tests performed by the officer. It is written in a narrative format, i.e., like a story, and from the officer’s point of view. If you disagree with the narrative you may be able request that the officer file a supplement to the narrative to correct any inaccurate information. Most likely, however, the officer will decline to do so.
As part of any serious accident description or accident involving major injuries, death, or drugs, officers may take additional measurements of the accident scene. In addition to tire or skid mark analysis, the officer may draw a crash diagram, showing the location of the vehicles on the road and the sequence of events leading up to the accident. The crash report may also contain traffic accident witness statements, which are sometimes filled out by the witnesses themselves. In these statements the witnesses record their contact information, what they were doing just prior to the accident (e.g., direction of travel, etc.), what called their attention to the accident (e.g., breaking glass, tire squeal, etc.), and what they saw.
Crashes Causing Death / Fatal Supplement
If the accident involved a fatality, the Arizona Crash Report will have a fatal supplement. It will list the name of the victim, the victim’s address and physical description. It will also list where the victim was removed to and who he was removed by. This may be identified by the MCMEO, Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office (“MEO”). The fatal supplement will list the date of death, time of death and whether the victim was deceased at the scene or transported to a hospital. The fatal supplement will list any safety device failure, improper usage of a safety device, any ejection from the car or ejection path (for example, through side door opening, through windshield, through back window, etc.).
The supplement will list whether an air bag was available. It will also list an extrication (“extr”) supplement which details how the victim may have been extricated by ambulance attendant, by police, by fire department, etc. There is a section on the fatal supplement that will be completed if any driver is tested for alcohol/drugs. This will detail the alcohol test type, alcohol test results, and drug test results. The fatal supplement also contains information about the crash configuration and whether it is an underride / override. An underride crash configuration is when a car travels under a vehicle, lifting it up. An override configuration is when a vehicle ends up on top of another car. This section also lists whether the override / underride had a compartment instruction.
The fatal supplement will also list whether there was a fire occurrence; in other words, whether a fire occurred in the vehicle during the crash. Finally the fatal supplement will list the time EMS was called, the time EMS arrived, and the arrival time at the hospital. The fatal supplement also has a section for comments by the officer. The crash report in an accident involving major injuries or death (“major events”) may also contain an incident command system log, listing the incident commander and listing all of the officers who responded to the scene.
Truck or Bus Accidents
If the accident involved a truck or a bus, the Crash Report will contain a truck / bus supplement. This form will list the qualifying information, which describes the truck involved in the crash, state whether at the time of the crash the truck or bus was operating on a traffic way open to the public or in transport or whether the truck or bus involved in the accident was parked on or off the traffic way.
The qualifying information section also includes information on whether a commercial driver license (“CDL”) was issued and if so, what class of license. The truck / bus supplement will also list vehicle information about the truck including the vehicle configuration (for example, truck/trailer, tractor/semi trailer, truck/tractor without bobtail or saddle mount, etc.). It will list the cargo body type (for example, van / enclosed box, cargo tank, flatbed, etc.). It will list the GVWR / GCWR, which stands for gross vehicle weight rating and gross combined weight rating. Finally it will list the carrier information, which is information about the trucking company, whether the trucking company that owned the truck involved in the accident was an interstate carrier, intrastate carrier, or “not in commerce-government.”
Finally, the truck / bus supplement will list the USDOT identification number of the truck that crashed. Commercial trucking is regulated by the federal government, and specifically the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”). The DOT has a division called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that oversees commercial trucking. You can look up information about the truck and trucking company involved in the accident at http://www.safersys.org/.
Employers and Commercial Auto Insurance Policies.
If you are hit by a commercial truck it is possible the company may be responsible for your damages and injuries. The good news is that most companies have significant insurance policies. On the other hand, the law of negligence is slightly more complicated when it comes to employees acting in the course and scope of their employment. These cases can also get complicated quickly. Some things to consider include: whether the employee driver was working at the time of the accident or merely returning home in the company vehicle; whether the employee driver was operating in a reasonable manner or under the influence of drugs; whether the employee driver has sufficient personal insurance to cover his actions if he is deemed not to have been working at the time of the accident.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship.
Contributing Attorney: Sam Saks. Sam is the founder of Legal Aid of Arizona and a partner at the law firm of Guidant Law
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