As attorneys who represent people injured in car accidents in the Chicagoland area, our office spends quite bit of time reviewing police reports related to the incident. Formally known as an Illinois Traffic Crash Report, it is a document prepared by local law enforcement agencies following every motor vehicle accident involving an injury or property damage within their jurisdiction.
Generally, for incidents occurring on City streets, the reports are prepared by the police officers within the municipality where the incident occurred. For incidents taking place on an Interstate, the reports are prepared by the Illinois State Police.
Lots Of Concise Details About Each Accident
The Crash Reports do a very good job conveying a significant amount of information in a concise and easy to read form. Unless the crash involves a particularly serious injury or fatality, the reports consist of two pages of information.
The Who, What, When & How
The first page of the Crash Report details the objective information collected by the responding police office collected from the scene of the crash. The area on the top of the page is comprised of specific boxes dedicated to specific data about the crash.
At the top of the Crash Report is an area showing:
- The location of the accident
- Date / time
- Municipality where the crash occurred
Moving down the page, is an area labeled Unit 1 and Unit 2 (where there are multiple vehicles involved in a crash, additional pages may be attached to show the other units) For each unit involved in the incident, the following information is recorded:
- Driver’s information: name, address, birthdate, sex, driver’s liscense number, telephone number and state issuing the license.
- Information about the car: make, model number, vehicle identification number (VIN), plate number
- Vehicle owner information: if different from the driver, the report will state who owns the vehicle
- Damage to the vehicle: The approximate damage and where located and if the car needed to be towed from the scene
- Insurance information: Name of insurance company and policy number (if any)
Significance of labeling Unit 1 & Unit 2
From the surface, there’s really nothing different from the information labeled in Unit 1 or Unit 2— but there is! Unit 1 is the party deemed to be responsible for causing the incident according the information gathered by the investigating agency.
Of course there is an element of subjectivity involved, but this initial determination is important for both the immediacy of resolving property damage issues as well as for resolving claims for personal injuries sustained by drivers or passengers in the crash.
Following areas for ‘units’ there is an area for the investigating police officer to list other occupants in the vehicles or witnesses to the crash. For a passenger injured in an accident, accurately recording their information is import to substantiate the fact that they were actually present in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
With respect to witnesses, either party may contact them to discuss their observations at the time of the crash. In order to preserve their observations, witness statements are frequently taken by an investigator and court reported for use as evidence in the case.
Lastly, the bottom boxes on the first page contain information on the cause of the crash, arrests made at the scene and if any citations were issued at the time of the incident. On the right side is an area for the investigating officer to put the primary and secondary causes of the accident. Utilizing a coding system, the investigating officer may will complete the boxes with a numeric code which correlates to what he or she believes to be the cause of the incident.
While the first page of the Crash Report contains (primarily) objective information about crash itself and parties involved. The second page of the report contains an area for an officer to complete a diagram about how the accident occurred and where each vehicle was positioned following the impact.
There is also an area for a narrative where the officer can write a about his or her own observations about the incident — if it wasn’t addressed before. The narrative may also be based upon conversations with the drivers and witnesses at the scene.
Role Of Crash Reports In Personal Injury Cases
The significance of Traffic Crash Reports in motor vehicle crash cases should not be minimized. As they are completed shortly following a crash by an objective party (police officer) both sides need to acknowledge their significance in personal injury cases. Since the report itself is usually not admissible as evidence at trial, a police officer that completed the report may be called into court to testify. Usually years following the incident, officers will almost certainly testify in accordance with information contained within their report.
In serious injury or death cases, the Crash Reports can be used as a starting point for conducting a more thorough investigation into the crash that can be used by reconstruction experts to help more accurately explain how an incident occurred.
If you have the misfortune of getting involving any type of motor vehicle accident in Illinois, take some time to understand all aspects of a documents that may play a significant role in how your case gets resolved. If you have questions, feel free to call the Illinois car accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for a free consultation. (888) 424-5757