Jason Stephens | September 1, 2021 | Car Accidents
You may wonder whether car accident reports are part of the public record. In Texas, they are treated as confidential. Texas limits the parties that can access car accident reports. Other parties can only request a redacted copy.
In most cases, a person who has a legal interest in obtaining an accident report can pay the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) for an unredacted copy of the report. This report provides valuable information for a claimant after an accident that results in an injury or death.
Here is a quick guide to the best ways to obtain a copy of an accident report and the data you’ll likely find in the report.
Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report
Texas law requires a police officer that responds to an auto accident to file a crash report when the crash results in death, injury, or property damage of at least $1,000. The official name of the report is the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report, but it is also called a CR-3.
After completing an investigation and preparing the CR-3, the investigating officer will file it with TXDOT. The officer has only ten days to file the report after the accident.
Contents of a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report
TXDOT only makes the CR-3 form available to police officers. Private citizens cannot fill out a CR-3 or file it with TXDOT.
Before 2017, TXDOT allowed police officers to provide a different form, called a CR-2, to drivers so that they could fill it out and file it on their own. This was allowed in cases that produced no deaths, no injuries, and property damage of less than $1,000. However, these forms were discontinued.
The CR-3 contains four pages. The report includes:
- Location and time of the crash
- Descriptions of the vehicles involved
- Insurers and policy numbers for each vehicle
- Names of all of the people involved, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists
- Names and addresses for each vehicle owner or lessor
- Disposition of each person injured or killed
- Any charges or citations filed
- Description of all property damage
- List of factors that contributed to the accident, such as weather or road conditions
- Narrative of how the accident happened
- Diagram of the accident scene
- Investigator’s identifying information
Under Texas law, the officer who prepares the report must identify the cause and conditions of the accident. This information is critical to any injury claim.
People Allowed to Access a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report
Texas law outlines the people and entities that can access the full CR-3 for a crash.
- Government agencies
- Law enforcement officers
- Anyone involved in the accident
- Anyone with a right to sue for the accident, such as parties in a wrongful death case
- Legal representatives of anyone involved in the accident
- Insurers of the vehicles involved in the accident
- Radio and television stations
- Free newspapers
These parties can order the report online for a fee. TXDOT charges $8 for a certified copy of the report and $6 for an uncertified copy.
Anyone else who requests a CR-3 will only receive a redacted copy of the report. The redacted copy excludes all personally identifying information in the CR-3, including:
- Driver’s license numbers
- Dates of birth
- License plate numbers
- Insurer names and policy numbers
- Badge number of the investigating officer
- Dates of death
- Locations where accident victims were taken
Texas treats the unredacted CR-3 as privileged and confidential. This means that anyone who wants an unredacted CR-3 that is not allowed access under the statute must subpoena the records from TXDOT.
Using the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report
Texas uses a fault-based insurance system, which means that you will file an insurance claim with the insurer for the driver who caused the accident. If your lawyer cannot settle the insurance claim, you can file a negligence lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
The highly detailed CR-3 could provide the foundation for an injury claim. It will identify the at-fault driver and the citations they received. Your injury lawyer can use this information as evidence of negligence in court.