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As a car accident lawyer, I always ask that if you have your police accident report, please bring it with you to our first meeting. It will be on a form like this.

REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVERS
1. N.J.S.A. 39: 4-130 requires that any driver of a vehicle or street car involved in an accident which results in injury or death of any person or damage to property of any one person in excess of $500 shall by the quickest means of communication notify the local police department or nearest office of the county police or state police of the accident.
2. The driver is further required to forward a written report of such accident within 10 days to Motor Vehicle Services on forms furnished by it.
3. A written report of an accident shall not be required by this section if a law enforcement officer submits a written report to Motor Vehicle Services pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39: 4- 131

Thus, if someone calls the police and they respond to the accident scene, the police, not you, will fill out the accident report – so long as the accident is a “reportable one.”  What is a “reportable accident” ?

REQUIREMENTS FOR LEO’s
N.J.S.A. 39:4-131 states:
“Every law enforcement officer who investigates a vehicle accident of which report must be made as required in this Title, or who otherwise prepares a written report as a result of an accident or thereafter by interviewing the participants or witnesses, shall forward a written report of the accident to the division, on forms furnished by it, within five days after this investigation of the accident.”

Pursuant to the requirements of N.J.S.A. 39:4-131, an officer investigating a motor vehicle accident must submit to Motor Vehicle Services a completed crash report within five (5) days. The reports are submitted by all law enforcement agencies in the State for any “reportable” motor vehicle traffic crash. A “reportable” crash is one resulting in injury to or death of any person, or damage to property of any one person in excess of $500.00. As a result, approximately 310,000 crash reports are produced annually (as of 2010).

Simply because these forms request a lot of information does not always ensure that the information provided is always helpful or accurate.  To the contrary, the guidebook used by the police for preparing reports of motor vehicle crashes observes that “[t]he circumstances are rarely ideal as the officer must perform triage in attending to injured persons, minimize the impact and risk to surrounding traffic and then survey and analyze the crash scene.”  As a result, I sometimes have people come into my office and tell me that information on the accident report is correct.  This is usually due to an honest error on the part of the investigating officer.  Sometimes there is a mis-communication at the accident scene.  Sometimes the accident victim speaks Spanish, Portuguese or is from a foreign country and the officer does not understand the victim. Also, accident scenes can be loud with other emergency vehicles present and perhaps a crowd.

One too common error is the submission of a crash report by the police without an accident diagram on the report.  The guidelines for completing crash reports make clear in no uncertain terms that: “All NJTR-1 crash reports require a diagram.”  Also, some officers simply write “Vehicles moved” or similar words as a way of getting around the diagram requirement.  This is unacceptable.  The guidelines require that: “If any vehicle(s) are moved prior to your arrival, hit & run or conflicting statements exist, draw a ‘representative’ diagram based on your investigation and explain in box 135 (narrative).”

So, what can be done if information on a police crash report is wrong?  Change it.  Let your lawyer know about the error.  Providing the police department concurs that a change to the initial crash report is warranted, this situation requires the completion and submission of “Change Report” to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT). If the police department believes that no change is warranted, it may still document the challenge on an internal level but the information would not be forwarded to the NJDOT.

Properly done, however, an accident report can be a treasure trove of information.  The crash report is a form with 144 boxes in which information can be entered.  Many of these boxes are for single digit codes.  For example, the digits 01 in box # 98  indicate that the accident took place in the daytime.  Other boxes do not utilize codes but require information to be written out.  That would include the names and address of the occupants of the vehicles and a description of the crash. In addition, as noted, there is a place in the report (box # 134) for the investigating officer to draw a crash diagram and another (box # 135) for him or her to write a narrative description of the crash.

Of great import is box # 86 where the investigating officer is required to list the physical condition of every accident victim.  The only options she or he has to respond here are “Killed,” “Incapacitated,” “Moderate Injury,” “Complaint of Pain.”

These terms are defined as follows:
-“Killed – Victim is deceased;”
-“Incapacitated – Victim has a non-fatal injury, cannot walk, drive or normally continue the activities that they could perform before the motor vehicle crash;”
-“Moderate Injury – An evident injury, other than fatal and incapacitating. Injury is visible, such as a lump on head, abrasion, bleeding or lacerations;”
-“Complaint of Pain – A reported or claim of injury that is not fatal, incapacitating or moderate. Injury is not visible to the investigating officer.”

If you have ANY complaints of pain, no matter how slight, you must relate them to the investigating officer even if they do not seem that bad in the immediate aftermath of the accident.  Should your injuries worsen, the insurance company can be expected to rely upon the police report to attempt to minimize your claim.

The immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle accident is a very stressful time, to say the least.  Do your best, however, to cooperate with the investigating police officer and provide him or her with the most accurate information possible.  If you feel at all injured, say so.

-Karim

Have you been injured in a motor vehicle crash? If so, call us at LAW OFFICES OF KARIM ARZADI.  When you contact our office, we will immediately set up a free, confidential appointment where you will meet an attorney who will listen to you and evaluate your case.  We have conveniently located offices in Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, Jersey City, Roselle and East Orange. We understand traumatic brain injuries, neck injuries, back injuries and other medical problems caused by accidents and the problems that they can cause in your daily life.  Our law firm will always work to make sure you are compensated fairly.

 

Call The Law Offices Of Karim Arzadi

Attorneys Specializing in Personal Injury Law

in our offices in Perth Amboy, Jersey City, Roselle, East Orange, New Brunswick.

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