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Texas Car Accident Report Basics

It's no exaggeration to state that an auto accident can be a life-altering event. In addition to the possibility of being injured or your car being put out of service, you could find yourself paying for costs that exceed your damage coverage. Chances are you'll be in at least one accident during your driving career, so these are serious concerns.

If you wonder about how fault is determined in an accident and who is responsible and for how much, you're not alone. One of the most important documents involved in insurance claims after an auto accident is the Texas peace officer's crash report. An objective recreation of the car crash, the crash report is used in many ways.

While this article focuses on Texas crash reports, we'll also examine other aspects of auto accidents in Texas. We'll discuss driving requirements in Texas, relevant laws, auto insurance, fault and negligence, and what to do after an accident.

Some accidents can't be avoided, but learning the basics of Texas car accident reports can help you navigate the post-accident experience. Read on to learn what you need to know.

Motor Vehicle Accident Laws in Texas

The Texas Department of Transportation has plenty of suggestions on how to avoid being in an accident, such as slowing down, staying a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you, and always using your turn signals. Even if you follow every rule, there's still a chance of an accident. Knowing what to do afterward can be a big help.

Texas Laws: Fault and Negligence

Your car is a mass of broken plastic and twisted metal, with a geyser of sickly-sweet smoke rising from your punctured radiator. Who pays for this?

Texas, like most states, uses an at-fault system to determine responsibility for auto accidents. The driver determined to be more than 50% at fault for the accident is liable to pay for the damages of the other accident victims. If someone runs a red light and hits you, they'll likely have to cover your damages.

In most cases, their insurance policy will handle these awards. If the damage to your vehicle or other property is more than the at-fault driver's insurance coverage, you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit for full recovery.

The modified comparative negligence doctrine, also referred to as proportionate responsibility, is how Texas determines how much each person involved is at fault. If you're the at-fault driver and more than 50% at fault for the accident, you can't recover any damages.

Proving the negligence claim against the other driver and proving them to be at fault doesn't mean you'll escape having to deal with modified comparative negligence. The percentage of blame you carry for the accident will be deducted from any settlements you receive.

An example can help make this clearer. While settling with the insurance company of the driver who ran a red light and hit you, you settle on damages of $20,000. You were determined to have been too far into the intersection and thus 25% responsible for the accident. Under this system, you'd have 25%, or $5,000, taken away from your settlement and receive $15,000 instead.

For help understanding the complex recovery laws in Texas, dig into FindLaw's Texas Car Accident Compensation Laws article.

Texas Laws: Mandatory Liability Auto Insurance

You must carry liability auto insurance in Texas. Your car insurance policy will cover the damages of the other driver(s) up to the limits of your coverage if you're at fault in an accident. Texas refers to the state liability insurance minimum as 30/60/25. The minimum coverage you can have is:

  • $30,000 injury coverage per person
  • $60,000 injury coverage per accident
  • $25,000 property damage coverage per accident

While this is the required minimum of coverage, the state encourages drivers to opt for higher amounts of coverage. While nobody wants to pay higher premiums, you'll have to pay the rest out of pocket if you're at fault for damages that exceed your insurance coverage.

All Texas auto insurance policies will offer personal injury protection (PIP) coverage at a minimum of $2,500. PIP covers medical bills regardless of who's at fault, and it covers others in your vehicle as well. It's not mandatory, but if you choose to opt out of the coverage, it must be done in writing.

You must be able to produce proof of car insurance on demand.

Insurance claims can often seem like an endless journey. For an idea of how they work and how long it might take to receive a settlement, give FindLaw's Texas Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline article a look.

Texas Laws: Auto Accidents and Crash Reports

The aftermath of an accident is often chaotic and disorienting, but there are certain legal obligations all drivers bear. How you respond can affect how things will proceed.

What To Do After a Car Accident in Texas

It's difficult to remember everything you should do after a motor vehicle accident, so do your best. First and foremost, no matter how trivial the crash might seem, don't leave the scene of the accident until you've at least exchanged information with the other driver.

Check on the well-being of everyone involved in the accident, including yourself. Offer first aid if needed. Call 911 and let the operator know about any serious injuries.

In Texas, law enforcement must be called and come to the accident scene if any of the following apply:

  • There is property damage of more than $1,000
  • One of the drivers is intoxicated
  • One of the drivers leaves the scene of the accident
  • There is an injury
  • There is a death
  • One of the drivers has no insurance
  • One of the vehicles can't be moved under its own power

If the police don't come or determine the car crash doesn't meet the requirements for a police report to be created, you should get the following information from the other driver(s):

  • Name, address, birth date, and phone number of other driver(s)
  • Auto insurance policy information and policy numbers
  • Driver's license numbers
  • License plate numbers
  • Vehicle identification numbers (VINs) from all cars involved

If there are any witnesses, get their contact information and take a statement. Take pictures of the crash scene from different angles.

If you're hurt, seek medical treatment. Keep copies of all medical bills and medical expenses for your PIP through your insurance company. If you feel overwhelmed at any point, consider getting legal advice from a car accident lawyer.

Texas Car Accident Crash Reports

As mentioned earlier, the Texas peace officer's crash report is one of the most important documents involved in resolving your accident. While insurance companies will consider other factors as well, the data gathered in the report, known as a CR-3, will go a long way toward determining fault and negligence.

Try to be calm and polite with the investigating officer. While emotions can run hot after an accident, be truthful and composed while telling your side of the incident. The facts will determine the specifics of the accident, so do your best not to admit fault.

The police officer will take statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses. In addition, they'll note contributing factors that include:

  • Diagram(s) showing the positions of the vehicles after the crash, points of impact, and the visible damage
  • Weather conditions
  • Time of day
  • Road conditions
  • Traffic signals and signs
  • Insurance information and policy numbers from all drivers
  • Contact information from all involved drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • Driver's license numbers
  • Diagrams showing the type of collision
  • Informational details such as skid marks
  • Sobriety of all drivers

If the officer wasn't a witness, they should be focused on being objective while recording information and statements. The insurance companies will sift through the data involved to draw conclusions on negligence and fault.

Whether you're in Houston, Dallas, or Austin, your CR-3 will be available at the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Crash Records Information System (C.R.I.S) site within 10 days of the accident. The cost is $6.

You will need a copy to file an insurance claim and also if you choose to pursue a personal injury claim. Consider getting a free case evaluation from a car accident attorney before filing in court.

Texas Car Accident Report Summary

The chart below recaps the information you learned above with handy links concerning Texas car accident reports.

Relevant Texas Automotive Accident Statutes

Texas Transportation Code § 550.022 (duty to stop/accident damage to vehicle)

Texas Transportation Code § 550.026 (immediate report of accident)

Texas Transportation Code § 550.041 (investigation by peace officer)

When To Report:

If you're involved in a motor vehicle accident in Texas, the police must be alerted to the accident if any of the following apply to anyone involved in the accident:

  • Injury
  • Death
  • Property damage more than $1,000
  • If one of the drivers is intoxicated
  • If one of the drivers has no insurance
  • If one of the drivers leaves the scene of the accident
  • If one of the vehicles can't be moved under its own power

As of 2017, you are no longer required to file a CR-2 form, known as the "Blue Form," with the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) if there isn't a police report for your accident.

How To Get a Copy of the Crash Report (CR-3)

Copies of your police accident report (CR-3) are available through the Texas Department of Transportation Crash Records Information System Purchase Portal. The fee is $6.

Note: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information About Auto Accidents in Texas

It can be difficult to find the exact information you're looking for concerning what happened in your accident. The answers below might be helpful in your search.

My elbow and my shoulder have never been right since the accident, but that was months ago. Is it too late for me to file legal proceedings against the at-fault driver?

If it's only been a few months, you should be able to file. The time you have is known as a statute of limitations. In Texas, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim from an auto accident. Make sure you have all of your medical records handy.

I ran into my friend's car and put a small scratch in the paint. It's not expensive to fix, and I'm going to pay for it out of pocket, but my mom says I still have to fill out the Blue Form and send it to the state. Is that right?

Mom's motor vehicle knowledge is a little bit out of date. As of November 2017, Texas drivers are no longer required to file a CR-2 crash report form, known as the Blue Form due to its color, on accidents that don't meet the threshold of a Texas peace officer's crash report (CR-3). As long as the damage is under $1,000, you aren't required to file.

Research the Law

Get an Attorney's Help With Your Car Accident Claim

Were you involved in a car accident in Texas and uncertain about how to proceed? Confused by what you stand to lose due to the state's modified comparative negligence laws? If you need help, consider meeting with a Texas car accident lawyer to get all your questions answered about Texas car accident report basics and more.

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