Understanding Your North Carolina Accident Report
To receive compensation for a motor vehicle accident in North Carolina, you must prove that someone was at fault. One of the most important pieces of evidence is the police accident report, known as the DMV-349. If you are involved in a traffic accident in North Carolina, the police are required to make a report at the crash scene, but only if there is a fatality, a personal injury, property damage of $1,000 or more, or damage of any amount to a vehicle seized for illegal activity, such as a DUI. You should request a police report as soon as possible after your accident and check it for accuracy. If there are errors on your police report, an experienced attorney may be able to assemble evidence that corrects the error.
When you receive your DMV-349, you will note that much of it is straight-forward information; however, there are also mysterious boxes in the margins that contain numbers that don’t seem to be referencing anything. First, check that the information in the body of the report is correct, including:
- Driver identification — Is your information correct? Does the other driver’s information match what you collected at the crash site?
- Owner identification — If someone other than the owner of the vehicle was driving, this could complicate insurance matters.
- Names and addresses of other persons involved — These are people such as your passengers and pedestrians who may have been injured.
- Crash sequence — These points describe how the accident played out moment by moment.
- Vehicle information — These points describe the role of the vehicle(s) in the accident.
- Roadway information — This describes conditions of the road that may have been a factor in the crash.
- Diagram — The officers’ sketch of the accident.
- Narrative — The officers’ written description of the accident.
As for the boxes around the margins of page one, these are statistical code boxes that the DMV uses to compile accident data. For the purpose of proving fault, the most important boxes are along the right-side margin; boxes 14, 15 and 16 indicate how the driver of the first vehicle may have contributed to the crash, while boxes 17, 18 and 19 denote how the driver of the second vehicle may have contributed. To interpret these boxes, you need the accident report code key, as follows:
0. No contributing circumstances indicated
1. Disregarded yield sign
2. Disregarded stop sign
3. Disregarded other traffic signs
4. Disregarded traffic signals
5. Disregarded road markings
6. Exceeded authorized speed limit
7. Exceeded safe speed for conditions
8. Failure to reduce speed
9. Improper turn
10. Right turn on red
11. Crossed centerline/going wrong way
12. Improper lane change
13. Use of improper lane
15. Passed stopped school bus
16. Passed on hill
17. Passed on curve
18. Other improper passing
19. Failed to yield right of way
21. Improper backing
22. Improper parking
23. Driver distracted
24. Improper or no signal
25. Followed too closely
26. Operated vehicle in erratic, reckless, careless, negligent or aggressive manner
27. Swerved or avoided due to wind, slippery surface, vehicle, object, non-motorist
28. Visibility obstructed
29. Operated defective equipment
30. Alcohol use
31. Drug use
32. Other* (Write in Narrative)
33. Unable to determine
The numbers the officer recorded will give you a good initial impression of your case from a liability standpoint. If the boxes in 0, 33 or 34 are checked the officer did not discern any problem with your driving that contributed to the crash. That’s important under North Carolina’s strict comparative fault law. If the report is unfavorable to you, you are going to have to assemble additional evidence in your favor.
An experienced NC accident attorney at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban can help you understand your accident report and provide you with a free case evaluation. Call us at (888) 351-1038 or contact our office online.