Accessing a California Highway Patrol Accident Report After a Crash
If you are involved in a car crash on a California state highway, it is very likely that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) investigated and filed the accident report. The contents of the accident report is crucial to the defense of the responsible driver and to the position of the injured party when pursuing a damage claim.
The purpose of this blog is to educate the public on the importance of an accident report filed by a CHP officer, and the proactive maneuvers a personal injury attorney can take when retained in the early stages of the investigation.
Filing a CHP Accident Report Correctly
When a CHP officer responds to a crash, the officer will investigate the scene and compile the findings into an accident report. Along with the statements of both drivers, the report will also contain statements given by any witnesses and the officer’s observations at the scene. All interactions between the officer, the drivers and any witnesses will be in the accident report.
For these reasons, it is important to control the responses given to the CHP officer. The adrenaline rushes experienced by both drivers with affect their responses to the officer. While attempting to explain the accident, the narrative could come across as an apology or an admission of guilt. The intent and the circumstances of the response will not become a part of the report—only the words.
An “I’m sorry” or “I just did not see the other guy” can be taken way out of context and may aid the officer’s stance on the party responsible for the accident. The accident will be a part of the claim filed with the insurance carrier of the responsible party. The insurance company will interpret these responses the same as the attorneys representing the drivers.
It is essential to answer the questions of the CHP officer honestly, respectfully and in a manner that answers only what is being asked. It is never helpful to stray from the subject of the question. As for an explanation of the accident, the best response is “I don’t know how the accident happened” or “I do not know the cause of the accident.”
It is best to let the evidence speak for itself and let the accident investigators determine fault.
The Request for a CHP Accident Report
The information requested on a CHP Form 190 is given and explained below.
- Date of the accident – an approximate date can be used if the actual date of not known.
- Location of the accident – as much information as possible should be given if an exact location is not known.
- Owner or Driver – provide the name and address even if it is your car and you are the applicant.
- Party of Interest – only one box can be checked for this section. Typically, a party of interest is the driver, the vehicle owner, a passenger, any party who suffered injury or property damage from the accident, the parent/guardian if the driver is a minor, or an attorney representing any person named above.
- Verification – A copy of the applicant’s license or state ID must accompany Form 190 to verify the proper party of interest. If the applicant does not have a state-issued ID, then the form can be notarized.
- Applicant and contact information.
- Company or Agency – this section applied to government agencies or insurance companies.
- Signature – be sure to sign the completed form.
- Payment – checks should be made payable to the “California Highway Patrol.”
The fees for an accident report depend upon the number of pages and whether there is a CD of photos. The fee starts at $10 for up to 25 pages, and increases in $10 increments per 25 pages. There is a $5 charge per CD.
The CHP offices will accept cash payments if the applicant is in person. It is the best to deliver the completed application in person for the exact fee amount to be paid. This will prevent delays in the processing of the request.
The Importance of the CHP Accident Report
The contents within the accident report are very useful in representing both the responsible and the injured parties. Both drivers need independent counsel to scrutinize the report to find discrepancies in their client’s explanation of the accident.
The accident report will give the investigating officer’s view and perception of the scene, and their belief as to which driver is at fault. The statements of any witnesses are an important part of the fact-finding process to piece together the cause of an accident.
It is helpful to the positions of both drivers to retain the representation of an experienced personal injury attorney to scrutinize the contents of the accident report before the involvement of the insurance adjusters.
Remember, the accident report will accompany the claim filed with the insurance company of the responsible party. The contents of the report will be the subject of further inspections and investigations by the adjuster and the opposing counsel.
Both drivers, and others who may be involved in a car accident, need the experience and the expertise of a personal injury attorney to properly defend and represent their position. This representation and defense will be largely predicated on the accident report.