Whenever there is a motor vehicle accident, New Jersey law requires calling the police to report an accident. N.J.S.A. 39:4-130. This report will be used as the official description of the accident. While official, it may not be entirely correct or representative of what actually happened.
This occurs on countless occasions and for myriad reasons, whether you were shaken up and not thinking clearly, the officer misheard your statement or wrote down the wrong information, or the other party gave a false narrative of the happening of the collision. Whatever the reason is, it is crucial that you clear up any inconsistencies as soon as possible.
Reading a Police Report
However, before we get to how to request changes to your report, it is important to understand how to read a police report to ensure your report is actually inaccurate. A review of any New Jersey Police Crash Investigation Report will reveal several numbered boxes, each with a corresponding code. Each numbered box and corresponding code may be looked-up on the state’s website to determine the information reported. See State of New Jersey Police Crash Investigation Report Legend.
Generally, your police report will include the following information in plain English:
- The names and contact information of those involved, and information regarding any passengers;
- Information regarding any witnesses who stayed on the scene;
- Information concerning the vehicles involved, including the year, make, model, license plate number, and other identifying information;
- Details regarding the owners of the vehicles involved;
- An illustration of how the accident occurred;
- The speed limit, traffic signals present, the direction of travel, and other information concerning the roadway where the collision occurred;
- General information about the weather, the number of lanes of travel, the date and time of the accident, and whether any tickets were issued; and
- Testimonials of the individuals involved and the results of the investigating officer’s findings.
Understanding the Codes
If you have been involved in a car crash, among the most important boxes to reference are boxes 25 and 55. Here, you will find the insurance information regarding the vehicles involved. Each box will have a code that corresponds to a specific insurance company. For insurance companies registered to transact business in New Jersey, the state provides a handy list. See New Jersey Insurance Company Codes.
For example, you may see a number like 148 or 200 in one of these boxes. Box 148 per the above list would correspond to Government Employees Insurance Company, otherwise known as GEICO, whereas code 200 corresponds with USAA. A review of these boxes should be your first step in determining who insured the at-fault vehicle, such that you may pursue a claim with the other driver’s insurance.
The majority of the boxes throughout the body of the report are straightforward and will contain plain text. However, along the bottom of the report, you will notice a grid. Boxes 83 through 95 are where the report will identify the individuals involved in the accident. Boxes 83 through 86 will advise where the individual was seated in the vehicle, which vehicle they were in, whether the individual was ejected from the vehicle, and finally, the individual's condition following the crash.
Boxes 87 and 88 will respectively set forth the individual’s age and sex. Boxes 89, 90, and 91indicate the location of any injuries, the type of the most severe injury, and whether medical treatment was refused. Box 92 indicates what safety equipment the vehicle was equipped with, while box 93 indicates whether the safety equipment was used. Box 94 will tell whether there was any deployment of an airbag. Lastly, among the grid is box 95, which indicates whether the individual was taken to a hospital. Much like the rest of the report, a code will be inserted here. These codes may then be likewise looked up on the state’s website. New Jersey Hospital Codes.
Finally, along the left and right side of a New Jersey Police Crash Investigation Report, you will note boxes 96 through 134. Boxes 96 through 105 set forth the road and environmental conditions, the number of vehicles involved, and the type of crash.
Boxes 106 and 107 are used only if a commercial vehicle is involved. It is essential to check these boxes, as the involvement of a commercial vehicle is a notable exception to the verbal threshold or limitation on lawsuit option.
Boxes 118 through 134, located on the right side of the report, set forth the contributing factors of the accident and the sequence of events. For instance, these boxes may indicate that the tortfeasor was operating their vehicle at an unsafe speed or failed to properly observe traffic before changing lanes or turning. These boxes will also reveal whether the drivers were determined to be under the influence or distracted by the use of a cellphone or other device. Finally, the lower boxes will indicate what type of collision occurred, how it occurred, and where damage was sustained to each of the vehicles involved.
Many types of errors may present themselves in your police report. To ensure that you have the best chance to claim full compensation, you should review your report carefully and ensure that the report is as truthful as possible. There are many types of errors that can occur. Some of them are listed below.
These errors are typically the easiest to fix as they usually have objective proof to show that they are incorrect, and they are often just the result of typos. For instance, you may notice that your name is misspelled, your driver’s license number or date of birth is incorrect, etc. These errors can typically be resolved by simply showing the officer the proper spelling or date on your driver’s license. Once reported, the police department may write an addendum report explaining the changes and attach it with the original report.
Transcription errors occur where the actual details of the case are incorrect. They can either be non-inclusion errors or inconsistencies.
A non-inclusion error occurs where a significant piece of information about the accident was not included. For instance, you may have reported to the officer that the other driver was swerving before the accident, which could indicate that they were intoxicated at the time of the crash. This should be included in the report, as its exclusion could sway the case in a different direction.
While not precisely an error, disputed facts are among the trickiest types of factual errors, as they may require you to resolve the dispute with the other involved individuals before an officer will amend a report.
For instance, if the report noted that you were traveling at a high rate of speed before the collision, it is unlikely an officer will amend the report unless you can provide them with actual evidence that you were not speeding.
As these disputes are typically “he said, she said,” unless you can provide objective proof that the disputed fact occurred another way, you likely will not be able to amend the report without the consent of the other involved individuals. Alternatively, you can request that each version of the accident be included in the report.
How Do I Request a Change to a Police Report
The most important thing to remember when requesting a change is always to be respectful to the officer. People make mistakes, and often the error was just a typo or a misunderstanding in taking statements. Be reasonable and just let the officer know that the information is incorrect. You will then need to provide an explanation or evidence to convince the officer that the error should be corrected. If you can’t convince the officer that the report is incorrect, you may need to contact a New Jersey car or truck accident attorney and have them attempt to negotiate a change to the report for you.
The Police Report will be one of the most crucial pieces of evidence regarding your crash. It will be referenced by the insurance company and almost every individual along the way. As such, you should ensure that the report is accurate, and the earlier you contact the officer, the better your chance of getting an amendment is.
If you have suffered injuries due to a car or truck accident, you should immediately contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney who has experience making and prosecuting injury claims. If you wish to discuss your legal options, Farrell & Thurman, P.C., offers a variety of convenient ways to schedule a free, no-pressure consultation. You may do so directly on our website (Schedule A Consult), via phone (609-924-1115), or by email (Contact Us).