Accident reports are one of the most important documents you have access to following a roadway accident. There are two distinct reports which may be filed in Houston. The one filed by law enforcement who arrive on the scene is known as a CR-3, and the other, which may be filed by anyone involved in the accident, is known as a CR-2 (or blue report).
Do I Have to File a Houston Accident Report?
According to Texas Legislature Senate Bill 312, the Department of Transportation in Texas no longer retains Driver’s Crash Reports. However, this does not mean a report should not be filed. If nothing else, filing a CR-2 allows you to have a record of the accident from your point of view on file.
It is important to recount the amount of damage, even though the severity of injuries may not be immediately known following an accident. In some cases, such as whiplash or internal injury, victims may not be aware of their injuries at all. Additionally, what may look like minor damage to a vehicle at the scene of an accident could wind up being estimated at significantly more than you originally thought. Remember, what may seem like a minor fender bender could result in several hundreds of dollars in property damage or medical bills in the weeks following an accident. Don’t wait too long to take action.
Law Enforcement and the CR-3 Accident Report
When an accident results in more than $1,000 in damages to property, a victim suffers an injury, or a victim loses their lives, law enforcement is required to fill out and file a CR-3. Reports must be filed within 10 days of the date the accident occurred. These reports are not public information; they are only accessible to law enforcement, or they may be requested by specific people involved in the case.
Accident Victims and the CR-2 Accident Report
Accident victims may file a CR-2 accident report. Since a CR-2 report is not required, some victims are uncertain whether they should file one or not. Contact a car accident attorney and speak with them about the circumstances of your accident. They can give you personalized guidance regarding filing a Houston car accident report.
Filing a crash report allows you to record the following details:
- Name and contact information for the involved drivers
- Driver’s license information as well as license plate information
- Name of the registered owner of the vehicle
- Insurance company names for all involved in the accident
- Details of the accident including location, time, and date
- Narrative explaining the circumstances surrounding the accident
- Photographs of the accident scene and aftermath
As you can see, this information can be helpful, particularly when you are filing an injury claim, or when holding a responsible driver accountable by filing a car accident lawsuit.
Who Can Access a Houston Accident Report?
Texas law restricts who may access those accident reports which are filed.
Interested parties who may pay a fee to access the reports include:
- Anyone involved in the accident
- The employer of anyone involved in the accident
- The parent or legal guardian of anyone involved
- The owners of the vehicles involved
- Any other party in a position of financial responsibility for the vehicle (e.g. insurance holder)
- The insurance company who has a policy that covers any driver or passenger involved in the accident
- The insurer who covers the vehicles involved in the crash
- Properly licensed owners of television or radio stations
- Anyone who has the legal right to file a wrongful death claim because of the accident
- All local, state, or federal government agencies
Accident reports filed by law enforcement officers are available for 10 years following the date of the accident. CR-2s are not retained.
Identifying Crash Reporting Mistakes
Anyone who is a victim of a car accident in Houston should request a copy of the accident report filed by law enforcement. This is done by using form CR-91 and may require the user to review CR-3CS to understand the codes which are used in the report. The reports may be confusing, which is why accident victims often request they be reviewed by their car accident lawyers.
When you request a copy of the report, you should review all the statements made by law enforcement to ensure the accuracy of the information. Any mistakes in the report could hurt your insurance claim. Remember, insurance companies are going to look at ways to minimize your claim—and a mistake in the Houston accident report could give them the ammunition they need.
Your personal injury attorney is there to represent your best interests. If you find a mistake in the accident report, they can help correct the record and provide an accurate statement about the accident.
You should also keep another fact in mind. Even when a Houston accident report is filed properly, the police officer at the scene may have decided who is at fault for the accident. While the “official” report may show you are at fault, don’t panic—your attorney’s investigation may uncover evidence that shows a different outcome. Oftentimes, witness statements and accident reconstruction contradict the officer’s findings.
Do I Need a Houston Police Accident Report to File an Insurance Claim?
The simple answer is no. The more complex answer, however, is that an accident report can help you tremendously when filing an insurance claim. Simply put, the accident report provides information that helps summarize the accident. This makes filing your claim easier, and this is why the accuracy of the report is so important.
You should request a copy of your accident report as soon as possible. While you do not need the report to file a claim, it is usually a good idea to have the information from the report available to you before filing. Speak with your attorney about your insurance claim and ask for their guidance regarding whether to wait for the official Houston police department report or to proceed using your own report when filing an insurance claim.
How Long Before My Accident Report is in the System?
Law enforcement officers are required to file accident reports within 10 days of the accident. In some cases, it may take as long as an additional four business days before the report is available in the system. Once you have paid the appropriate fees and requested a copy of the report, it may take another several days before the report is available to access. Monitor your email—once you have access to the report, you will have only a few days to download the report before the report is no longer accessible.
Should I Wait for the Accident Report Before Speaking With an Attorney?
No. If you have been seen by a doctor and know the extent of your injuries, you should speak with a lawyer. In fact, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney in Houston before you speak with your insurance company at all.
While you may think this is excessive, there are some things you should know about insurance companies and dealing with adjusters:
- Multiple adjusters for claims – Be aware that you will most likely deal with at least two claim adjusters. One adjuster will be responsible for handling issues like your medical bills. The other will only handle your claim for damage to your vehicle. Both adjusters will be looking for different information.
- Avoid recorded statements – It is a fairly common tactic for an insurance company to tell you it is standard practice to record your statement. Not only is it not a common practice or an obligation, it is in fact a sneaky method used by insurers to minimize claims. During a recorded statement, well-trained adjusters will ask you specific questions which are intended to gain specific information. This information will be used to minimize your claim. Don’t fall for it!
- Review requests for release of information – The adjuster handling your medical bills claim will probably request you sign a release allowing them access to your medical records. You must review this request carefully—it may not be what it appears to be on the surface. While the insurance company does have a right to see your medical records for treatment of the injuries you suffered in an accident, their form will ask for far more access. This is to see if any injury you suffered existed before the Houston car accident. They will try to dismiss your accident injuries as pre-existing conditions.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is helpful to speak with a Houston car accident attorney before you file your insurance claim. A lawyer can guide you through the claims process and make sure you do not provide any information to the insurance company which could result in the insurer reducing the amount of your claim.
Compensating You for Your Injuries
Car accidents often result in serious injury. In addition to the bodily injuries you have suffered, your family’s finances are impacted as well. When an accident is not your fault, we believe you and your family should not have to bear the financial burden associated with the accident. This includes the cost of repairing your vehicle, the wages you will lose when you’re out of work during your recovery, and medical expenses. An attorney with experience handling car accident cases can help make sure you remain financially stable following an accident.
A car accident claim can help you recover financial compensation for losses such as:
- Medical bills – We understand you may have health insurance which will cover some of your expenses. However, if you have not met your annual deductible, if you require services that are not covered, or if you have to purchase prescription drugs that are not covered, you should not have to pay for these expenses out of pocket. The person responsible for the accident should be financially liable.
- Rehabilitation costs – Victims of serious injuries including broken bones, damage to nerves or tendons, and those who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) often require rehabilitation services. In some cases, these services are short-lived to help you regain strength, but in other cases, you may require vocational rehabilitation therapy. Your injuries may make it impossible for you to return to your current work. These rehab costs are often not covered by your insurance.
- Loss of income and benefits – You may be collecting disability payments while you recover, but these payments are generally less than your full-time income. Additionally, your employer may have required you to use sick time, vacation time, and personal time which you were counting on for future use. These losses are not your fault, and should therefore be compensable.
These are only some possible avenues of compensation an attorney will seek on your behalf. In the event the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to compensate you for your losses, negotiating with the insurance company for a more reasonable settlement must be done. Because insurers have an army of lawyers working for them, it is always a good idea to have your own lawyer negotiating on your behalf. Remember, the insurance company is not on your side. Despite what they may tell you, their first offer is rarely—if ever—the best offer they will make.
Myths About Working With a Houston Car Accident Lawyer
Some of the concerns we hear about working with an attorney following a car accident just plain aren’t true. Here are some of the common fears and anxieties which we hear from hesitant clients:
- Attorneys make cases last longer – This is not true. Nearly every attorney knows the sooner a case ends, the better for their client. There are certain time frames they must adhere to, and your attorney will work diligently to meet them.
- Attorneys are too expensive – You may think you cannot afford an attorney, but you are wrong. In fact, car accident lawyers will take most cases on a contingency fee basis. This means unless they are successful in securing a settlement on your behalf, you will not pay for legal fees at all.
- Attorneys control the settlement – This is also false. Ultimately, you have the final word on any settlement they reach on your behalf. Your attorney will provide you with the settlement information and give you their best advice. However, the decision to accept or reject a settlement offer is all yours.
If you are in an accident and law enforcement is called, they will file a Houston accident report. While the report is not needed for you to file an insurance claim, nor is it required to file an accident and injury lawsuit, you must be certain the information in the report is accurate. After any wreck, speak with a Houston car accident lawyer to learn more about your rights and fully understand your options.