Per Georgia Code §40-6-278: “The Commissioner of Transportation shall prescribe, by rule, uniform motor vehicle Crash reports and reporting procedures which shall be used by all police officers, whether state, county, or municipal.” This means that in Georgia, every police officer is required to use the same form to report a motor vehicle accident. This form contains vital information about the facts of a vehicle collision and information about both you and anyone else involved in the crash.
Although the form is widely used, it is difficult to read and understand for someone who has not seen it before. Knowing the information that the form should contain and how it is filled out can be very helpful if you are considering starting a legal claim after a car accident.
What are the essential parts of the motor vehicle accident report in Georgia?
Every police report contains four necessary parts. These include:
- The front of the crash report. This portion contains some of the most vital information about the crash.
- The back of the crash report. Although the back of the report often contains less information, it is still important because it allows the reporting officer to give a narrative account of what happened just before, during, and after the accident. It also includes information that the drivers shared with the officer and the officer’s opinion about what caused the crash. It even allows a space for the officer to draw a diagram of the accident. Information on specific property damage is also included on this back page.
- The overlay. The overlay provides information about the various codes and data fields that are found on the crash report. It used as a “key” to correctly read the report.
- Continuation sheet or supplemental report form. In some situations, the officer needs more space to accurately report all of the information gathered as part of their investigation. Continuation sheets or supplement forms allow the officer to include all of the information that they think is important or necessary.
The State of Georgia uses electronic means to create and submit Accident Reports. That means that an officer does not have to physically write out an Accident Report. The information is provided to a computer program so that it is easier to read and complete data is provided.
What information is on the Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report?
Some parts of an accident report are very easy to read. For example, you can easily see where all of the parties’ names are listed on the report. Other basic information includes:
- Date and time of the accident
- A description of the vehicles involved
- Driver conditions and actions
- Information regarding insurance and driver’s license data
- Data required for commercial motor vehicles
How to read codes on an accident report
There is also critical information included in the report—but you may not realize it at first glance. That is because police officers use codes to show information about the crash. These codes are represented as numbers listed in each informational box. The overlay provides a helpful key for interpreting this information. The codes are used to describe information such as:
- The first or most harmful event
- Contributing factors to the accident (both with the vehicle and the driver)
- Roadway conditions
- Direction of travel and traffic flow information
- Vehicle maneuvers
- Maneuvers of other parties (such as pedestrians or workers)
- Vehicle class and type
- Where the collision occurred on the car or which part of the vehicle was affected by the crash
- Types of injuries
- Airbag function
You can actually find a great deal of helpful information about the collision by deciphering the codes the officer used to describe the crash. Information regarding how the accident happened, the damage to your vehicle, and your injuries are particularly helpful to your case.
Although all of this information is based on the opinion of the particular officer investigating your claim, it can be beneficial in a car accident claim. Investigating officers see hundreds of accidents every year. They have unique experience and know-how when determining the cause and results of accidents. Having an experienced officer’s opinion reflected in an Accident Report can be vital to proving your car accident case.
Driver age is one of many factors that the federal government and the State of Georgia track. New drivers, especially those who are between the ages of 16 and 17, have the highest rates of crash involvement. As a result, Georgia is often looking for ways to train drivers better so that they are safe on the road. Also, drivers over the age of 80 have very high rates of driver death as well.
Age codes on the crash report
The Age category also tracks any passengers or others involved in the accident as well. The general age categories include:
- 00: Infants up to 1-year-old
- 01-97: The actual age of the person, if it’s between 1 and 98
- 98: 98 years old or older
- 99: Unknown
In most situations, the number that you see in this category is the actual age of the driver or other passengers involved in the crash. There are really only three situations when the individual will use a code—when the person is very young or very elderly. Instead, the age category “is what it is” in most situations.
The Air Bag Function section of the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report indicates whether an airbag was present, whether it deployed, and how. It uses a set of numeric codes explained below.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 45,000 lives have been saved between 1987 and 2015 because of frontal airbags. Today, they save thousands of lives every year. But, airbags are meant to be supplemental protection in a car accident. They work best when they are used in combination with seat belts.
Airbags are designed to deploy in “moderate to severe crashes,” but they can deploy in minor crashes as well. Nonetheless, many people assume that a collision is more severe if the airbag deploys because of it. Generally, an airbag will be activated if you experience an impact that’s the same as hitting a fixed object between 8 to 14 mph. This is approximately the same force as hitting a parked car at roughly 16 to 28 mph.
Codes for “Airbag Function” on a Georgia crash report
There are several options regarding airbags on the Georgia Crash Report. Each passenger in the vehicle should have a notation for an airbag, regardless of whether there is an airbag available in that particular seat.
In some cars, there are both side and front airbags. If both deploy, then both should be marked on the crash report (like as Deployed Multiple Directions). The following general categories are available:
- 0 – No Air Bag In This Seat
- 1 – Deployed Air Bag
- 2 – Non-Deployed Air Bag
- 3 – Deployed Side
- 4 – Deployed Other Directions
- 5 – Deployed Multiple Directions
- 6 – Non-Deployed Front
- 7 – Non-Deployed Side
- 8 – Non-Deployed Other Directions
- 9 – Non-Deployed Multiple Directions
- 10 – Deployed Curtain
The “curtain” category
A curtain is a side airbag that deploys from the top of the rails above the side window. It provides protection between the passenger and the window. It will protect a passenger’s head and helps the window stay in place if the car rolls over.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that if an airbag deploys, then a car is likely totaled. But, that isn’t necessarily true. A vehicle will be considered “totaled” if the cost of repairing it is more than the cost of replacing it. Insurance companies will often also total out a car if the cost of repair is a certain percentage of the replacement cost. Because airbags deploy in more severe crashes, there is a higher likelihood that you will have a totaled car, but it’s not automatic. You can replace an airbag so that it is usable again in the future.
The “alcohol and/or drug test given” vategory
“Alcohol And/Or Drug Test Given” is a field on a Georgia Accident Report which states whether the driver was required to take any kind of test to detect alcohol or drugs in their system.
A police officer can give a driver an alcohol and/or drug test at the scene of a car accident. But, this type of test is not standard protocol after every crash. Instead, an officer will only give this test if they suspect that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
An alcohol or drug test is also required in certain situations, such as when the crash involves someone who was driving for an employer at the time of the accident. In fact, federal laws that affect trucking companies require that commercial driver license holders be tested for drugs and alcohol after every collision.
The Accident Report the police use to report the incident includes a section that indicates whether a drug or alcohol test was given. Having that type of information can be very helpful in your personal injury case after a car accident.
What information about alcohol tests is included in an accident report?
All Accident Reports in Georgia include a question about whether alcohol and drug testing was given after a crash. The officer is required to fill out all of this data for every Accident Report. There are three responses possible to this question:
Even if a test is refused, that can be helpful information for your drunk driving accident case. When a request for a drug or alcohol test is denied, that can signal that the driver who should have been tested would have had a positive result, but not always.
The Accident Report will also include information about what type of test was conducted, if any.
Why is drug testing important after a car accident?
If you saw another driver act erratically just before the accident or it seemed like the other driver might be on drugs or drunk, you need to report their actions to the officer. Sometimes a police officer will not ask for a drug or alcohol test if they don’t see any signs that a driver was drunk. If you provide that information, the officer is more likely to ask the other driver for that type of testing.
Keep in mind that the police may not be able to automatically test a driver for drugs or alcohol. While you can’t insist that the officer make the other driver take a test, you can give the officer enough information to provide them with probable cause to administer a test. Because driving while intoxicated is illegal, the police will have a keen interest in getting this type of information.
It will be much harder to show that a driver was drunk or on drugs at the time of the accident for your personal injury case if the other driver isn’t tested.
The “area of initial contact” category
The “Area of Initial Contact” or “Point of Initial Contact” on the crash report refers to where the vehicle was first hit. In many accidents, a vehicle will end up with damage in several places — for example, if it hit something and spun into something else, or if it rear-ended someone and then got rear-ended by another driver behind. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s helpful for officers to know which impact happened first. It’s also useful to car accident lawyers and insurance adjustors as they reconstruct what happened. That’s why knowing the area of initial contact is so important.
Understanding the “area of initial contact” code on your crash report
Officers will typically fill in a number from 0 to 15 to indicate the initial point of contact. Each of these codes refers to a specific direction of contact. In general, 0 means the vehicle was overturned; 1-12 refer to which side it was hit on, using the same directions as the number on a clock; and 13-15 cover some special circumstances.
To choose the right number, officers have a special overlay to help them — but you don’t need this overlay to know what they mean. Here are the full codes:
- 0 — Vehicle was overturned (upside-down)
- 1 — Vehicle was hit at the 1 o’clock position, near the front-right
- 2 — Vehicle was hit at the 2 o’clock position
- 3 — Vehicle hit on the right side
- 4 — Vehicle was hit at the 4 o’clock position
- 5 — Vehicle was hit at the 5 o’clock position, near the back right
- 6 — Vehicle hit directly from behind
- 7 — Vehicle was hit at the 7 o’clock position, near the back left
- 8 — Vehicle was hit at the 8 o’clock position
- 9 — Vehicle hit on the left side
- 10 — Vehicle was hit at the 10 o’clock position
- 11 — Vehicle was hit at the 11 o’clock position, near the front left
- 12 — Vehicle hit directly in the front
- 13 — Vehicle was first hit on top (often by flying debris)
- 14 — Vehicle was first hit on the undercarriage, often by debris on the road
- 15 — Vehicle never made contact at all; it wasn’t touched
The “cargo body type” category
The Cargo Body Type section on the Georgia motor vehicle crash report refers to what kind of cargo a vehicle is set up to carry. This is different from the vehicle configuration, also listed on the report, which refers more to the size or capacity of the vehicle.
Vehicles, especially commercial vehicles, sometimes have larger portions that can have an effect on the severity of the accident. For example, large semi-trucks that have heavy trailers will generally cause more damage compared to a passenger car. The type of cargo will also determine the kind of property damage involved as well. As you can imagine, a truck carrying new vehicles will likely have more damage than a garbage truck.
Noting that a vehicle had a specific cargo type can also change who is involved in your lawsuit after a car accident. If, for example, a cargo trailer is involved, you may need to include the party that owned the container or the cargo inside in your truck accident claim as well. Having this information will be helpful to ensure that you have involved all of the parties that may be legally responsible for your damages and injuries.
Cargo body types listed on the crash report
Although flatbed trailers and enclosed boxes are perhaps the most common cargo vehicle on the road, you may be surprised to learn of the wide variety of choices included on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report. They include:
- Van (Enclosed Box). A van that has an enclosed box is one of the most common cargo vehicles on the road. Although it includes the term “van,” this type of vehicle isn’t your traditional “van.” Instead, it is a large container that has wheels attached to it.
- Auto Carrier or Tow Truck. An auto carrier can range from a large vehicle carrier that can carry several cars, or it can include a single-vehicle tow truck. Any vehicle that is designed to carry other vehicles is considered an “auto carrier.”
- Bus. Although some people may not consider buses “cargo” vehicles, they really are—their cargo includes passengers. Bus accidents become much more complex than the average passenger vehicle collision.
- Dump. Dump trucks include any vehicle that carries cargo that is designed to be dumped, whether it’s from the back or side of the vehicle.
- Garbage/Refuse. Garbage, recycling, and other refuse vehicles have their own classification. These vehicles may be privately owned, but they’re sometimes owned by local governments as well.
- Flatbed. A flatbed truck is similar to an enclosed box, but it has space on which to set cargo boxes. The cargo box doesn’t have its own separate wheels like an enclosed box would, however.
- Cargo Tanker. Tankers are generally used to transport liquids. This is relevant because sometimes liquids are hazardous and difficult to clean up if spilled. Drivers that transport liquids also must usually carry a special license for this type of cargo as well.
- Concrete Mixer. Concrete mixers are easier to classify, but it’s important to note that this designation includes all sizes of mixers, from very small to those that do huge concrete projects.
- Other. If a cargo vehicle doesn’t fall into one of the designated categories, an officer will usually include it in the “other” designation and note what type of cargo it was carrying in the notes section.
- Hopper. This entry is new for 2018. A hopper is used to transport products like grain or other bulk commodity products. They often have a roll tarp on the top of the trailer to quickly load and unload the product.
- Intermodal Container Chassis. This entry was also added in 2018. These vehicles are similar to flatbed trailers, but they are narrower. They are often used to move containers that are used on marine travel.
- Pole Trailer. These trailers are generally used to transport large or irregular loads. They often have beams that connect them between the vehicle towing the load and the trailer. These long vehicles can be tough to maneuver and control, which increases the risk of collision. This notation was added in 2018 as well.
The various types of cargo container notation will sometimes give you an indication of what was in the vehicle. For example, a hopper is more likely to carry small product compared to a cargo tanker, which is used for liquids.
The “damage to vehicle” category
The most prominent aspect of any motor vehicle accident is the damage and injuries that it causes. It’s no surprise, then, that the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report includes a special section dedicated to “Damage to Vehicle.” (There’s also a separate section for injuries.) And you have a legal right to get this report and understand what it says.
“Damage to vehicle” is a relatively straightforward section. On its own, it doesn’t go into much detail; it simply notes how severe the damage was and whether any fire was present. But, officers typically use numbered codes to mark down this information, which can be confusing. Below, we’ll decipher the codes and give some perspective on why this section of the crash report is so important.
Understanding the “damage to vehicle” code on the crash report
Here are the codes an officer may use for the Damage to Vehicle section:
- None. (For example, the vehicle was forced off the road and didn’t suffer any damage, or was barely “tapped” and there is no visible damage. This is also common when a vehicle hits someone on foot or on a bicycle.)
- Slight. This is often used in “fender benders” where the only damage is a single dent in the bumper or a single scratch.
- Extensive. When this code is used, it’s likely that the car is totaled, although that is a separate determination made by the insurance company.
- Fire Present
This last one, fire present, is especially important as fire tends to radically change the type of damage to the car. In fact, fire is just about the only kind of damage a car is likely to suffer that isn’t caused by the actual moment of impact. And in many cases, fire will make it harder to assess the direction and severity of the impact.
In addition to the code, the officer may write in comments giving more detail on what happened.
Why is the damage to the vehicle important?
Most police officers are not forensic experts, and the damage to vehicle code is always going to be, to some extent, a subjective assessment. However, it is important to your car accident claim — it can lend support to, or undermine, how severe you’re saying your damages are. It can also help justify a claim of severe injuries if the insurance company is questioning them.
The “direction of travel” category
On the crash report, the officer investigating your car accident will note what direction each vehicle was traveling just before the collision. As you might expect, there are four choices for direction of travel: North, South, East, and West. The direction will indicate where the vehicle was going just before it lost control or before turning into an intersection. This information is important because it spells out exactly how the accident occurred. It would be difficult to understand the incident in your car accident case without this type of information.
Types of accidents involving direction of travel
Many of the same kinds of car accidents occur over and over again. The direction of travel is essential to describe these common accidents. Consider how the direction of travel plays a role in the following collisions.
- Rear-end collision. A rear-end crash occurs when two vehicles that are going in the same direction collide. One hits the back end of the other. While most of these accidents occur while one car is stopped, that is not always the case. In this type of situation, the direction of travel will be the same for both vehicles. Rear-end accidents are one of the most common types of collisions in the United States.
- T-bone or cross-traffic accidents. These collisions involve one car hitting the side of another, often while going through an intersection. These collisions are usually the result of ignoring a traffic device or stop sign, but not always. T bone accidents also occur because someone turned in front of another driver. Distracted driving may play a role in these types of accidents. The direction of travel in this accident will be the way that the vehicle was facing before it tried to turn. Usually, one driver is going North or South, and the other driver is traveling East or West.
- Merging accident. Inattentive drivers may merge into others in another lane. In these accidents, a driver may be turned around after the crash, but the direction of travel for both cars is often the same. Note that the direction of travel in this situation is particularly important because you may not be able to tell the car’s route by looking at the crash scene.
- Low-speed accidents. It is still important to know the direction of travel in low-speed collisions, such as those that occur in parking lots. This information will be helpful to determine fault in your car accident case.
The direction of travel information is also especially important when vehicles cross lanes of traffic in serious accidents. It may not seem like the car would have traveled that far, and it may have ended up facing an entirely different direction. However, the direction of travel will tell you just how serious the accident may have been in some circumstances.
In nearly all situations, the chance of surviving a car crash greatly increases if you aren’t ejected from the vehicle. That means that seat belts and other measures to keep you in place are generally a good idea every time you get in the car.
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report tracks whether a driver or passenger is ejected from a vehicle during a car accident by creating a specific “ejection” section on the report.
Ejection codes on the Georgia crash report
Because of the potentially severe injuries that can be caused by ejection from a motor vehicle due to an impact, police will indicate whether a driver or passenger has been ejected from the car by using the following codes:
- 1 – Not Ejected
- 2 – Trapped
- 3 – Totally Ejected
- 4 – Partially Ejected
- 5 – Not Applicable
There are situations where indicating whether an ejection occurred simply does not apply to a situation, but these circumstances are rare. They may apply when someone was not in a vehicle when the accident occurred, such as pedestrians or bicyclists. The “not applicable” code was added in 2018 to account for those situations.
Extrication equipment used
When someone becomes trapped in a vehicle because of a car accident, it may be necessary to use extrication equipment to remove someone from the car. This is most common in truck accidents, overturned vehicle accidents, and high-speed highway accidents where damage is severe — but it may occur in almost any kind of accident.
The most well-known type of extrication equipment is commonly referred to as the “jaws of life.” This equipment is used to pry apart cars so that emergency personnel can create enough space to free anyone trapped inside. These tools are often a combination of spreading, sheering, and ramming tools.
Because the use of these tools can affect the outcome of an accident, as well as the damage to the vehicle, the “Extrication Equipment Used” section is included on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report. This section uses a simple yes/no numeric code to state whether any such equipment was used.
Extrication codes on the Georgia crash report
There are just two categories related to whether extrication equipment is used:
- 1 – Yes
- 2 – No
This type of information is helpful to determine whether local emergency response personnel are using this high-value equipment. But, it’s also useful for personal injury cases because it can illustrate just how serious the crash truly was. It’s far more likely that a car accident resulted in severe damages and injuries if the jaws of life or other equipment were used to free a trapped individual after a car accident.
First / most harmful events
“First Harmful Event” is a field on a Georgia Accident Report which states the event that initially caused the vehicle crash.
“Most Harmful Event” is part of the same field, and states the event that caused the most serious injuries or damage.
Where to find first/most harmful events on your report
Some of the most important sections on your Georgia crash report are titled simply, “First” and “Most Harmful Events.” These sections are crucial because they contain the responding officer’s assessment of what caused the accident and what caused the damage/injuries. Here’s how to understand First/Most Harmful Events:
- The “First Harmful Event” is located on the back of the report, just under the “citations” section. It states the original event that led to the crash, but it gives only a numeric code. (You can interpret the codes using this chart.) For example, if one car sideswiped another while passing, it would be code 11, “motor vehicle in motion.”
- The “Most Harmful Event” appears twice, once for each vehicle, on the front of the sheet. This is the event that caused the injuries or damage—or whichever one caused the worst of them. It appears twice because it may be different for each vehicle. As an example, if one of the sideswiped cars went off the road and ran along a guard rail, causing serious injuries, it would be code 19, “Guardrail Face” for that vehicle.
Understanding the codes is important because they will often be used to determine fault, both by the insurance companies and by the court system; it’s why getting a police report is so crucial to the accident claim process. The officer is required to fill them in on all vehicle crash reports.
Collision with fixed object event
Collisions with fixed objects can cause significant damages, particularly when the accident occurs at high speeds. While most accidents that involve a crash with a fixed object are the fault of the driver that hit the object, that isn’t always the case.
One-vehicle accidents with a fixed object can also lead to legal liability, even when it may not seem like it. For example, if a construction zone has medians improperly placed so that curves are too tight or so that they are directly in the line of traffic, that can lead to legal liability for the construction company or the state in some circumstances.
It is always a good idea to talk with a car accident lawyer to determine if you have any options to recover damages after an accident, even if the collision was with a fixed object.
What objects are considered “fixed” on the Georgia motor vehicle crash report?
Generally, anything that is not designed to move is considered “fixed.” This is true even if your collision with the object shifts it slightly. For example, if you reposition a temporary barrier by hitting it, it is still considered a fixed object.
The types of fixed objects that can be circled on the crash report include:
- Impact attenuate. The most common form of impact attenuate is a 55-gallon drum that is positioned in front of certain rigid obstacles. These items are supposed to stop the vehicle before they hit something that would cause a lot more damage.
- Bridge Pier/Abutment. A pier is an upright support for a structure, such as a bridge or arch. An abutment is similar. The most common structure of this kind in Georgia is support for a bridge.
- Bridge parapet end. This object is a safety feature that is on the edge of a bridge. It is designed to help protect pedestrians, cyclists, and other users from vehicles that run into the bridge.
- Bridge rail. These rails on the edge of the bridge stop vehicles from going over the side of a bridge. They, by design, allow the car to bounce off the rails and back on the road, but hitting these rails can still be very damaging.
- Guardrail face. A guardrail is placed along a roadway at dangerous points, such as when there are drop-offs. The face is the portion of the rail that runs alongside the road.
- Guardrail end. The end of the guardrail is the portion that is at either end of the guardrail. It’s often lower than the mid-portion of the rail.
- Median barrier. The median is located in the center portion of the road. It protects one lane of traffic from the other.
- Highway traffic signpost. Any traffic sign would qualify for this category of fixed objects.
- Overhead sign support. Overhead signs generally signify upcoming roads and intersections. Hitting a support means striking a pole that braces these structures on either side of the road, often on a highway or interstate.
- Luminaire light support. These support structures are specifically for light poles and other lighting structures.
- Utility pole. Utility poles include electric poles and any other utility structure.
- Other post. Any post that isn’t considered a utility pole falls under the category of “other post.”
- A culvert is an open drain or stream that often runs under roads and railroads. It is generally in a tunnel, but not always.
- Cable barrier. A cable barrier is a guard cable or wire rope that forms a safety barrier. It is designed to keep vehicles from going into dangerous areas, such as drop-offs and opposing lanes.
- Bridge overhead structure. Overhead bridges may also be hit by large trucks or other vehicles. There is a separate classification for when these rare occasions occur.
Less common types of fixed objects
Other fixed objects include things like:
There is also a catch-all category of “other-fixed object” in case the object you structure is not explicitly listed. If this is used on your crash report, the officer most likely wrote in a description of the object(s).
Collision with object not fixed event
Most accidents involve objects or people that are in movement. The type of movement that the other object is using will often have a significant effect on the damages and injuries involved in a case. This is why the Georgia motor vehicle crash report includes a section about what objects, if any, were hit—which often gets coded as Collision with Object (Not Fixed) Event.
Knowing what you collided with will be a big part of your car accident case and additional liability may also arise from a collision with certain types of non-fixed objects—which includes individuals.
What objects are considered “not fixed” on the Georgia motor vehicle crash report?
Anything that moves is considered “not fixed.” That can include:
- Yes, the crash report considers people “objects” in the sense that they are physical objects that can be hit in a collision. Even when a pedestrian is not moving when the accident occurs, that person is considered a non-fixed object. They are not fixed in place to the ground, even if they were standing still.
- Although the term “pedalcycle” is not widely used, it covers all forms of cycling vehicles, regardless of how many wheels they have or how many people they can accommodate. Any form of transportation that involves pedals is covered within this term. (If you were hit while on a bicycle, you should get advice from a good Atlanta bicycle accident lawyer.)
- Railway train/streetcar. These vehicles are technically not included in Georgia’s legal definition of a vehicle. That means that they are considered “objects” as well.
- You might be surprised at how much a collision with an animal can damage your vehicle. Animals are considered a non-fixed object even if they are stationary when the collision occurs.
- Parked motor vehicle. You may assume that a parked car or another vehicle would be considered stationary, but it is not because it has the potential to move. It could move both on its own and because it collides with you.
- Because accidents that involve deer are so common in Georgia, they have their own category on the Georgia motor vehicle crash report—separate from the general “animal” category.
- Work zone/maintenance equipment. Even large equipment that cannot move much or very quickly is considered a non-fixed object. Maintenance equipment or construction equipment could mean a wide variety of equipment or objects, including things as small as traffic barriers and as large as bulldozers.
- Other object (not fixed). There will always be unusual objects that could fall into this category. The Georgia motor vehicle crash report includes a “catch-all” category for anything that may not fall into the above classifications. In general, the officer filling out the crash report should write a description of what this “other” object is.
What type of liability could result from a collision with a non-fixed object?
If you collide with a non-fixed object, legal liability could result. The type of damage caused could vary widely. For example, a collision with a pedestrian is likely going to cause much more significant injuries or damage compared to a collision with a parked car.
Although you may assume that legal responsibility will always rest with the person who hit the non-fixed object, that may not always be the case. There may be situations where a pedestrian was also at fault because they weren’t walking in a designated area or walked out in front of a vehicle without looking. Even animals, such as cattle that are owned by a local rancher could lead to legal liability on behalf of the rancher.
Likewise, in some cases, the car that hit the object is not the car at fault for the accident. For example, if one car changes lanes without looking and runs a second car off the road, and the second car collides with a popcorn stand, there’s a good chance that it’s the first driver who is actually liable for the damages to the stand.
“Non-Collision Event” describes situations where a vehicle crashed without hitting something, or where the most serious damage or injuries were not caused directly by the impact itself—such as a car catching on fire after the collision.
Many Georgia crash reports will contain a code for some kind of “non-collision event.” These events relate to damage or emergencies that involve something other than hitting a vehicle or object.
Your crash report may contain a non-collision event even if there was a collision. This is because even collisions may have damage or causes not associated with the moment of impact. When a car hits another vehicle, for example, or a tree, it may run off the road and go into a body of water. If so, the immersion in water may be more dangerous than the initial impact itself.
Where to find non-collision events on your report
Non-collision events may show up in several different places:
- The “First Harmful Event.” This means the accident was initially caused by something other than a collision.
Example: If the code for fire appears in this section, it means a fire broke out in the vehicle while driving, and that’s what caused the vehicle to run off the road.
- The “Most Harmful Event” for either vehicle. This means that the worst injuries or damage were done by something other than a collision, even if there was a collision as well.
Example: If the code for fire appears in this section, it means a fire broke out after the crash, and the fire did more damage than the crash itself.
What do the number codes for non-collision events mean?
The actual “event” is usually given as a number. For non-collision events, there are only five of them:
- Overturn (vehicle flipped or turned over)
- Immersion (vehicle entered the water)
- Jackknife (a truck or a vehicle towing a trailer “jackknifed”)
- Other Non-Collision (if the officer chooses this, they are required to write in an explanation)
Not every crash report will include a non-collision event; it depends on how the accident happened. You can find out for sure by getting a copy of your police report after the accident.
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report has a specific section for an officer to note whether an injury resulted from the car accident. Officers fill in a numeric code from 0 to 4 to explain what happened (see what all the codes mean below). This data is considered “CRITICAL” because it’s a vital factor for not only statistical purposes but also for insurance companies and any potential legal case as well.
Always tell the officer if you are even slightly injured
Some insurance companies will argue that your injury wasn’t caused by the accident if it wasn’t mentioned on the police report. If you have any pain or are concerned about function at all, it’s better to err on the side of telling the officer you may have an injury and that you may need to get treatment.
Injury codes on the Georgia crash report
The various injury codes use in crash reports were all modified in 2018 so that they have slightly different definitions from January 1, 2018, forward. These include:
- 0 – No Apparent Injury (O). This category will only be used if there are no injuries and no one complains of an injury. Even if an officer doesn’t see an injury, they should still note complaints if they occur.
- 1 – Fatal Injury (K). A fatal injury includes any physical damage that results in death within 30 days of the crash. That means the death doesn’t have to occur at the scene—it can happen at the hospital or at home much later. The injury classification should be changed if the fatality happened after the report was initially completed. Note: if your loved one lost their life in a car accident, you need to speak to a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
- 2 – Suspected Serious Injury (A). A serious injury includes things like severe cuts that expose bones, organs, or muscle and/or result in a significant loss of blood. These are not fatal generally, but you should get medical attention right away.
- 3 – Suspected Minor or Visible Injury (B). This type of injury is apparent at the scene of the crash, but it’s not considered fatal or serious. A bruise or cut on the skin’s surface (lacerations) are the most common examples of minor injuries.
- 4 – Possible Injury or Complaint (C). This injury is defined as any possible injury that is not serious or minor. Claims of injury, visible limping, or pain complaints would all fall under this category. They may be reported or expressed by behavior, but there are no obvious wounds.
The categories were reworded to indicate that injuries are “suspected.” An officer isn’t a doctor, and their opinion of what type of damage occurred isn’t conclusive. The 2018 changes reflect that type of understanding.
That also means that you can, if needed, potentially argue that you had a valid injury related to the accident even if it wasn’t in the officer’s crash report — and even if the insurance company is claiming otherwise. Your car accident lawyer can help you.
When drivers can’t see, it makes it very difficult to operate their vehicles effectively. It’s much harder to see at night, and even during times when the sun is not high in the sky, such as during sunset or at dawn. Because light can contribute to the reason an accident occurred, there is a specific category for “Light Condition” on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report.
Light condition codes listed on the crash report
The officer will choose the most appropriate light conditions based on the following categories.
- 1 – Daylight
- 2 – Dusk
- 3 – Dawn
- 4 – Dark (But Lighted)
- 5 – Dark (Not Lighted)
Most car accidents happen in the evening hours. Because of this, local governments are often looking for ways to provide additional lighting in high-danger areas, such as around intersections, exit ramps, and Y-intersections. That is part of the reason there is a distinction between “lighted” and “not lighted” accident tracking on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report.
Location at area of impact
The “Location at Area of Impact” is considered a “CRITICAL” data item according to the Georgia Uniform Vehicle Accident Report Training Manual. This manual is written in large part by the Georgia Department of Transportation and is used by police officers in Georgia to correctly navigate the Uniform Crash Report.
Location at the area of impact deals with the location of the vehicles on the roadway when the car accident occurred (it doesn’t refer to the part of the car that was hit—that is covered by the “Areas of Initial Contact” section). The location is based on where the vehicles were when they first hit one another, not where they were pushed because of the force of impact or where they were moved to avoid traffic congestion.
“Location at area of impact” codes listed on the crash report
The location at the area of impact can tell you a lot about the crash—from who should have yielded to how fast the vehicles may have been moving. This information will play a significant role in your personal injury case.
The Georgia Crash Report originally used only the following categories to describe the physical location of the collision:
- 1 – On Roadway – Non-Intersection. This category applies any time you were on the road when the impact occurred, but you were not located near an intersection. Since the vast majority of accidents happen at an intersection, you may be surprised to see how infrequently this category is used.
- 2 –On Shoulder. Although most drivers will pull off to the shoulder after a crash, this category should only be used if the actual impact occurred on the shoulder of the road.
- 3 –Off Roadway. Any time the collision occurred off of the street, even if it was only slightly, this category would be used.
- 4 – A median is the portion of the divided highway that separates two lanes of traffic. It helps protect traffic from one another and curbs out-of-control vehicles when they try to go into oncoming traffic lanes. In some areas, it also provides a safe location to stop in the event of an emergency. But, parking in a median can be dangerous and may cause accidents. This category is used when the impact occurs on the median.
- 5 – Entrance/Exit Ramp. Ramps can be hazardous because it’s hard to see oncoming or leaving traffic. Slowing down or speeding up to match the flow of traffic can be a challenge as well.
- 6 – Gore. A “gore” is an area of land where two roadways converge or diverge. They are most commonly seen on exit or on-ramps. They are sometimes referred to as “Y” intersections as well. These areas can be hazardous, especially when drivers change direction at the last moment due to inattention.
In 2018, the GDOT added several additional locations where accidents can occur. Generally, these categories were added to the list to provide more specific information about where on the roadway the crash occurred, but they include a couple of off-road classes as well.
- 7 – On Roadway – Roadway Intersection. Accidents happen at intersections very frequently. This category is used when the incident occurs at any type of intersection.
- 8 – On Roadway – Roundabout. Although a roundabout is technically a type of intersection, the number of crashes that happen there are statistically lower as a rule.
- 9 – On Roadway – Driveway Intersection. Leaving driveways, even if you aren’t backing up, can be very dangerous. This is in large part because you may have to speed up quickly to meet the flow of traffic on the road. This code is used any time the intersecting street is not owned or maintained by the State of Georgia or federal, county, or city governments.
- 10 – On Roadway – Managed Lane (HOV, HOT, Reversible). A managed lane is any highway lane that uses lane restrictions or variable tolling. This type of management is used to optimize traffic flow or vehicle throughput.
- 11 – On Roadway – Collector-Distributor (CD). This type of road has lower traffic and is used to move traffic from local, slower traffic areas to main roads. CD roads provide access to residential areas. This type of road can be dangerous due to visual restrictions and the need to gather speed to move with the flow of traffic.
- 12 – On Roadway – Bicycle Lane. There are situations where the point of impact actually occurs in the bicycle lane. In most cases, this is because a bike and car collided, but not always. Some accidents related to turning into traffic or illegally driving in a portion of the bicycle lane can lead to collisions.
- 13 – On Roadway – Crosswalk. When the impact occurred in a crosswalk, this category will be used. Keep in mind that not all crosswalks are marked. A crosswalk actually exists at every intersection.
- 14 – Off Roadway – Sidewalk. There are situations where a vehicle leaves the road and strikes a pedestrian or other smaller vehicle (like a bike or scooter) on the sidewalk. Although these incidents often occur when a driveway or another road crosses over a sidewalk, that’s not always the case. When drivers lose control and veer off the road, sidewalk-related accidents are more likely to occur.
- 15 – Private Property. Any time a collision takes place on private property, whether it’s on a personal residence or in a parking lot, this catch-all private property category should be used. Not all private property accidents are minor—some can be very serious and may even occur at higher speeds.
Manner of collision
“Manner of collision” refers mainly to the direction of impact. In the Georgia Motor Vehicle Accident Report Training Manual, the Georgia Department of Transportation notes that “Manner of Collision” is a “CRITICAL” data item—and rightfully so. This data item, in addition to the officer’s description of the crash, will be one of the most important things that you, your attorney, an insurance company, and a jury will consider after an auto accident.
How an accident happened is often the most important factor in determining legal liability. For example, if you were involved in a rear-end accident and your car was the one that was hit, it is far more likely that the other driver will have to pay for your damages and injuries compared to a sideswipe incident where you and the other driver may have both been partially at fault.
Read on for how to understand this section and a guide to all the numeric codes used for Manner of Collision.
What happens if the accident isn’t a collision with another vehicle?
The first five categories of the Method of Collision section describe types of crashes with other vehicles. But, Code number 6 states that the incident was “Not a Collision with a Motor Vehicle.” This category will be used if the accident involved:
- Single vehicle
Single-vehicle accidents may occur when a driver loses control and hits something else, such as a pole or other property.
If the accident didn’t involve any of these, then codes 1 through 5 should be used.
“Manner of collision” codes listed on the crash report
The “Manner of Collision” section describes how the vehicles involved initially came into contact. That means that they may have hit again later or harmed other parts of the car, but this section only deals with the first impact between the vehicles involved.
The categories that the Georgia crash report use include:
- 1 – Angle Crashes. This type of crash involves any kind of collision where the vehicles are not traveling in the same direction. Some of the most common crashes that this would describe are commonly known as “t-bone” accidents, but they can include situations where the front of one vehicle hits any part other than the front or directly behind the second vehicle.
- 2 – Rear End. A rear-end crash occurs where one vehicle hits another directly from behind. These cars are going in the same direction when the incident takes place. Although many rear-end collisions occur at slower speeds, they can still be very dangerous and result in severe injuries.
- 3 – Head-on Collision. A head-on collision occurs when the front-end of one vehicle collides with the front end of another car. These vehicles are traveling in opposite directions when this type of collision occurs. Although these accidents are often directly in the center of a vehicle, they don’t have to be. Often one vehicle will try to swerve to avoid the other car, sometimes hitting just one side of the front of a car. The direction of force (where the vehicle is pushed as a result of the accident) has no bearing on whether the crash is considered “head-on” or not.
- 4 – Sideswipe – Same Direction. This type of accident occurs when two vehicles both hit their sides together while they are driving in the same direction. Although they may hit again later, the first damage-producing event was between the sides of the two vehicles.
- 5 – Sideswipe – Opposite Direction. The only distinction between this category and the previous one is that the cars involved here were moving in opposite directions when the crash occurred.
The Georgia Department of Transportation notes that vehicle malfunctions (such as when a tire blows or when steering fails) are not collisions with a motor vehicle. But, when those malfunctions cause a crash, that could result in damages or injury. This is true even when the car that caused the accident was in transport when it failed or malfunctioned.
It goes without saying that pedestrians and bicyclists don’t move the way that motor vehicles do. As a result, the Georgia motor vehicle crash report has a separate section that only applies to non-motorists. This is known as the “non-motorist maneuver” section.
Although non-motorists would technically include those on bikes or other small “vehicles,” like scooters or skateboards, this code section is supposed to apply only to pedestrians—and shouldn’t be used if there were no pedestrians involved in your particular crash. But, it is a relatively common mistake for officers to include bicycles and other small vehicles in this section anyway. In some circumstances, this type of error can affect your car accident case more than you might think. A good lawyer can help you.
Types of non-motorist maneuvers noted on the crash report
Non-motorists only include pedestrians. But, that description can be limited even further. For example, if someone is injured while getting in or out of a vehicle, including a car, truck, or bus, that person is considered a “passenger.” These individuals have a separate code, such as entering/exiting a bus or parked or standing vehicle.
Non-motorist maneuvers include:
- Crossing the street. This is perhaps the most common designation, but the motor vehicle crash report further divides this classification to cover whether the pedestrian was at a crosswalk or not.
- Moving with or against traffic on the roadway. When a pedestrian is walking on the road, but not crossing the street, that will be noted with a separate code. The code will also indicate whether that person was walking with or against traffic, which in many cases, will tell you what side of the road the pedestrian was on.
- Pushing or working on a vehicle. Unfortunately, some pedestrians are struck while they’re trying to repair or move their stalled car. This code covers those types of situations.
- Other working in the roadway. This classification is generally used for construction zones and covers employees who are harmed while working on the road, but not always. Sometimes those working on nearby buildings or land may need to be in the street to complete their job.
- Playing in the roadway. This code is often used for children who are harmed while playing in the road, whether their entire play was in the street or if they ran out into traffic.
- Standing in the roadway. Standing in the road is never a good idea as a pedestrian, even if you’re in a crosswalk.
- Off the roadway. If the pedestrian was not in the road, but perhaps on a sidewalk or in a parking lot, this code may be used.
- Darting into traffic. Accidents often occur because pedestrians run into traffic when they shouldn’t. In many situations, if a pedestrian suddenly appears in the road, an accident may not be avoidable.
Operator contributing factors
The underlying reason that car accidents happen varies widely. Although many of the same themes repeat themselves, such as speeding or driving while distracted, every collision is unique. The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash report attempts to address some of the most common contributing factors. These are known as operator contributing factors.
Having this information allows a car accident victim to show what the other driver did wrong to cause the accident, but it isn’t conclusive evidence about what happened. Nonetheless, this particular section can be very helpful in many car accident cases because it sets out what the police officer thought caused the accident.
What types of contributing factors might be noted on the crash report?
Most operator contributing factors deal with failing to follow the rules of the road or some other operator error. These include, for example:
- Under the influence. Although the section entitled “Operator/Pedestrian Condition” contains references to operating the vehicle under the influence, this section notes that being under the influence was a contributing factor to the accident. In many situations, being under the influence does contribute to the crash, but not always. This section lets the officer note that being under the influence actually caused the accident, which can be very helpful for your car accident case. (Note: if you were hit by a drunk driver, it is extremely important you talk to a drunk driving accident lawyer to protect your rights!)
- Following too close. When a driver follows too close, that can lead to rear-end collisions. If you have been rear-ended, following too close may be the reason that this type of accident occurred.
- Driving too fast for conditions. Although speed limits generally control speed, drivers are supposed to drive only as fast as the circumstances permit. That means that if it’s foggy or raining heavily, drivers need to slow down to ensure that they are driving safely. It is certainly possible that a driver causes an accident because they were going too fast for the conditions, even when they were driving below the speed limit.
- Disregard police—traffic control. Police often take an active role in controlling traffic. Drivers can be at fault even when they are following the general rules of the road but have disregarded directions from a police officer directing traffic.
- Reaction to object or animal. This notation isn’t necessarily an error—but it can be. If a driver overreacts to an animal or object, that can be considered a mistake. But, sometimes a driver reacts appropriately, and that causes an accident as well.
- Driver condition. This section is connected to the operator/pedestrian condition section. For example, if the driver suffered a stroke while driving, that would likely be listed as a driver condition, and then the condition section will likely include a note about “physical impairment.”
- Like other categories, an officer can mark “other” when something unique has occurred that falls outside of the general categories in this section. There will likely be a note about what this contributing factor may be.
- No contributing factors. There are situations when it appears that no one did anything wrong, but an accident occurred anyway. While those situations are rare, the officer does have the option to indicate that the operator did nothing wrong.
Other additional operator contributing factors dealing with driver error include:
- Failed to yield
- Exceeding speed limit
- Disregard stop sign/signal
- Wrong side of the road
- Improper passing
- Driver lost control
- Changed lanes improperly
- Improper turn
- Misjudged clearance
- Improper backing
- No signal/improper signal
- Improper passing of a school bus
- Disregard other traffic control
- Reckless driving
- Aggressive driving
- Disregard police – evasion
- Not visible (object, person, or vehicle)
- Vision obscured
Do the operator contributing factors include information about distraction?
There are also additional sections related to driver distraction. Instead of having a “catch-all” category for distraction, the Operator Contributing Factors divides out potential distraction in addition to having a general distraction code. Specific distractions listed include:
- Talking on a hands-free device
- Talking on a hand-held device
- Other activity – mobile device
- Occupant distraction
The codes are also divided into internal and external distractions as well. Internal distractions may be something as simple as looking down to adjust your radio. An external distraction could include watching something or someone else instead of the road in front of you.
Drugs and alcohol significantly impair an individual’s ability to drive. It is also illegal to operate a vehicle while intoxicated in Georgia, regardless of what kind of substance causes your intoxication. As a result, there is a separate section on the Georgia motor vehicle crash report where officers can note any potential intoxication from drugs or alcohol. This section is referred to as Operator/Pedestrian Condition.
This section also allows officers to note other driver or pedestrian conditions that may have contributed to the accident, such as physical and emotional impairments. Even being angry or depressed can affect your ability to drive and maintain control of your vehicle. As a result, these items can be explicitly set out on the crash report.
If you’re dealing with an accident involving a drunk or impaired driver, our Atlanta drunk driving accident lawyers can help you.
What types of conditions may be noted on the “operator/pedestrian condition” section of the crash report?
Driver conditions can include the following:
- Not drinking. Accidents that do not involve any particular state will generally be noted as “not drinking.” Phrasing the crash report in this way virtually requires the officer to ask about other conditions as well as being under the influence of alcohol because that condition is widespread in Georgia.
- There will be situations where an officer may not be able to test or determine if a driver was under the influence of anything before the accident. The officer has the option to mark unknown. However, if testing occurs later, such as at the hospital, the officer may go back and amend the report to note the driver’s condition.
- U.I. Alcohol. “U.I.” in this context means “under the influence of.” The officer is permitted to note if they believe that the driver as consuming alcohol just before or during the collision. Keep in mind that the driver doesn’t have to be considered legally intoxicated for this notation to apply.
- U.I. Drugs. When a driver is under the influence of any type of drug, that can affect their ability to drive, even if it is a prescription medication. That means that “U.I. Drugs” can include both illegal and prescription medications.
- U.I. Alcohol & Drugs. Some drivers or pedestrians may be under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. Instead of putting down a code for each, there is a separate code for both substances.
- Physical impairment. A physical impairment can affect your ability to drive or walk. For example, if a pedestrian uses a walker, that will have an effect on their ability to move quickly across a street or over a driveway.
- Suspected fatigued or asleep. Drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel, or their fatigue may also affect their reaction time, causing an accident. Because it’s difficult to prove that a driver was tired or asleep, the officer can indicate their suspicion instead of indicating definitively that the driver was asleep or tired at the time of the crash.
- Emotional (depressed, angry, disturbed, etc.). A driver’s mental state will often have an effect on their ability to drive. Someone with road rage, for example, will not drive the same way as someone who is calm and collected. Those who have mental disorders also may not be able to respond appropriately to certain situations while driving.
- Suspected U.I. (Alcohol and/or Drugs). When an officer cannot prove that a driver is under the influence, they can indicate their suspicion in this section.
This information will be helpful for your personal injury case. The officer’s notation about the state of a driver can be vital information about why the collision occurred.
Why does this section also apply to pedestrians?
While this section does focus on the state of the driver for most situations, it can also indicate the state of pedestrians too. Many times, a pedestrian will not be at fault for an accident. But, there are circumstances where a pedestrian may cause or contribute to a crash. For example, if a pedestrian walks out into traffic because they were intoxicated, that should be noted on the crash report. Having that type of information also explains why an accident occurred in the first place.
Whether you are on a curve, hill, or straight and level road will affect the likelihood of a car accident occurring. Visibility can be a challenge while coming over a hill or attempting to navigate a curve, for example. For this reason, there’s a separate section on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report that sets out the type of road that you were traveling on when the accident occurred, known as road character. Officers will fill them in using a code.
Note that road character is separate from road composition, which refers to how a road is paved (if at all).
Road character codes noted on the crash report
There are several types of road character descriptions available on the standard Georgia Crash Report, each with a numeric code. Interestingly, however, there is no “other” category like most of the other collision descriptions. That means that the officer must pick the road character most similar to the location of the crash. But, the investigating officer can also add more specific information in the notes section of the report as well.
The road character codes on the crash report include:
- Straight and level. Many roads in Georgia, especially on busy interstates and highways, are considered straight and level. Keep in mind that even if the path you are on has curves and hills if the portion where the accident occurred is straight and level, then this is the description that the officer is likely to use.
- Straight on grade. A “grade” also means a slope, incline, pitch, or rise. It refers to the downward or upward slope of the road. Grades for landscapes, including streets, are measured in percentage. The higher the percentage, the steeper the hill.
- Straight on hillcrest. This road characteristic is likely set out separately to account for visibility issues that arise when someone is coming up over the hill. A hillcrest is the very top portion of a hill, often where the landscape transitions to moving downward.
- Curve and level. Curves can make controlling your vehicle difficult, especially if a driver isn’t paying attention, hits gravel, has to deal with severe weather, or faces other similar issues. Noting that the accident happened on a curve sometimes indicates that successfully navigating the curve was a factor in the crash.
- Curve on grade. Curves while going up or down hills are even more dangerous than those that are on flat surfaces. Speed is often a factor in this type of collision, but not always.
- Curve on hillcrest. Having a curve at the top of a hill is rare, but it does happen from time to time. This type of road character presents severe visibility problems, often for both drivers who are involved in the collision.
The type of road that you drive on can have a significant effect on whether a car accident occurs and how severe it may be. Depending on the location, it can also determine how quickly you can get help as well. For example, if your accident occurs on a gravel road, it may take more time to get emergency personnel out to your location to help you get medical assistance. That type of delay can not only seriously affect your health, but it can have a profound impact on your amount of damages and injuries as well.
The road composition can also sometimes cause an accident too. It’s much easier to lose control on a dirt or gravel road compared to a blacktop, for example. This type of information may be very valuable for your car accident case.
Road composition types noted on the crash report
Many car accidents in the United States occur on blacktop or asphalt roads. This is because most streets in the U.S. today are paved. However, other types of roads see their fair share of accidents as well.
The types of road composition that are noted on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report include:
- Concrete. Concrete roads aren’t used as often throughout Georgia simply because asphalt or blacktop is much more cost-effective. But, concrete generally doesn’t require as much maintenance so you may see concrete roads in smaller communities. Nonetheless, concrete cracks can lead to large fissures in the street that can affect your ability to control your vehicle, especially if you are on a motorcycle or another smaller car.
- Asphalt or Blacktop. Asphalt is actually a mixture of tar and gravel that is compounded down into several layers. It is used to coat a road so that the surface is smooth and level. It does require significant upkeep, however. When the street breaks down because of water or wear and tear, it can be dangerous.
- Tar and Gravel. This type of road is actually very similar to blacktop, but it’s more often used as a sealing treatment instead of as a paving method for an entire street. Newly chip-sealed roads will often have loose gravel that can be dangerous, especially if it’s not appropriately marked. When a construction crew fails to put up warnings about the loose gravel, and it leads to an accident, they may have legal liability for your damages and injuries.
- Dirt. Georgia has a variety of dirt roads that have very little maintenance. These roads can be hazardous in periods of heavy rain or when the street hasn’t been updated in some time. Georgia is famous for its red dirt, and there are a few dirt roads that feature this natural wonder. But, today, there are just a few of these roads in more rural areas of each county.
- Gravel. While gravel roads are far less likely to wash out compared to dirt roads, they can still be just as dangerous. Traveling too quickly on gravel, especially while going around curves and making turns, can cause drivers to lose control pretty quickly. Some drivers are also so familiar with dirt and gravel roads that they sometimes forget basic safety measures, like yielding to oncoming cross traffic. Most intersections on gravel or dirt roads aren’t controlled either, which makes each juncture slightly more dangerous.
- Other. If the officer doesn’t know what the road composition is or is unsure, they might mark “Other.” But, there are very few road types that would fall under the “other” category. Sometimes when accidents occur in a parking lot or just outside of a driveway, an officer may mark it as “other” just to indicate that the collision actually didn’t occur on a “road.”
Information regarding road composition may seem basic, but it helps paint the picture of what happened to a jury who may be considering your case. For example, someone who frequently travels on gravel or dirt roads may be more familiar with the dangers associated with them. Someone who has never been off the blacktop may have a hard time understanding why a driver should have been driving slower on a gravel road. Being able to give this information to a jury or insurance company helps tell the story of your car accident.
Roadway contributing factors
Many car accidents have more than one cause. In some situations, one of those causes is related to the condition of the road. For that reason, crash reports in Georgia have a separate section that allows an officer to describe road conditions that likely contributed to the crash (even if they were not the only cause). This section is known as “roadway contributing factors.” This information can be beneficial to your car accident case, but it could also provide a defense for the other driver in some situations as well.
What types of roadway contributing factors are included on a crash report?
The crash report includes an option to indicate that there were no contributing factors. Because this section cannot be left blank, this option could be checked when nothing other than carelessness, recklessness, or inattention caused the crash.
Road conditions that contributed to the accident may include:
- Shoulder (none, low, soft, high): Sometimes there are problems with the shoulder of the road that causes a driver to lose control if they hit it. When there is no shoulder, for example, it is much easier to fly off the road, without the ability to stop yourself.
- Ruts, Holes, Bumps: Road maintenance can play an important role in the ability of a driver to control their car. Large bumps or holes may surprise a driver and end up causing overcorrection issues that lead to accidents.
- Loose Material on Surface: The most common example of loose material is gravel, but it can also include dirt or other debris. In many situations, new dirt or gravel can result in over-application that can be dangerous.
- Water Standing: Standing water can lead to hydroplaning, which occurs when your tires no longer touch the surface of the road. It takes away your ability to steer for a short time, which is not only scary but also very dangerous.
- Work Zone: Construction areas can not only put debris and other materials on the road, but repainted lines can be confusing to follow, or there may be traffic cones or other protective barriers out of place. Any of these can result in severe accidents.
- Running Water: Fast-moving water can be hazardous. If possible, you should avoid driving through moving water as it can sweep away vehicles if you are not cautious.
- Backup Due to Prior Crash/Secondary Crash: Sometimes collisions are not cleared away fast enough to avoid secondary accidents. In many situations, vehicles following closely behind may not be able to react appropriately to avoid hitting a stalled car or collision scene.
- Traffic congestion: Stop-and-go traffic is difficult to deal with in any circumstance, but in some situations, it can lead to accidents, especially for drivers who are not paying attention to the road in front of them.
- Road Surface Condition: When the roadway becomes wet, slushy, or even has snow, it can become very dangerous to drive in that area. Keep in mind that you should only drive as fast as road conditions permit.
- Obstruction in Roadway: When you come across debris or other items in the road, you may not be able to react fast enough to avoid a collision. Whoever left the obstruction or created it may be legally responsible for your injuries after that type of accident.
- Visual Obstruction: There are two types of visual obstructions. The most common obstruction Is due to vegetation along the roadway. Overgrown plants and bushes may inhibit your ability to see oncoming traffic, which is extremely dangerous. The other type is simply described as “other” on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash report. That means that any visual obstruction could fall into this category.
- Incident Response Team: some accidents occur because a driver is unsure of how to react to another collision. Sometimes this is due to inattention, but it could also be caused by negligent handling of the accident scene.
There is an additional category for “other” as well. That means that there was some road condition that was relevant for your crash, but it has not been specifically coded. Instead, the officer will have to write a more detailed description of the conditions in the notes or comment section of your report.
Wearing proper safety gear can significantly cut down on the injuries that drivers and passengers experience after a crash. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regularly reports that simply wearing your seat belt saves more than 15,000 lives every year in the United States. A simple click can mean the difference between life and death in many situations.
Other safety equipment can be very helpful as well. From a legal perspective, you can actually be considered partially at fault for your injuries if you aren’t wearing proper safety gear at the time of the accident. As such, this code is considered a “CRITICAL” data point on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Safety equipment codes listed on the crash report
The safety equipment category has to address equipment for all types of vehicles, including motorcycles. It also must address a variety of unique safety equipment specifically designed for child passengers as well. As such, there are quite a few variations of safety equipment that may be present in any given crash. You will also often see more than one code listed here as well.
Potential safety equipment includes:
- 0 – None Used
- 1 – Shoulder Belt Only Used
- 2 – Lap Belt Only Used
- 3 – Lap and Shoulder Belt Used
- 4 – Child Restraint System (Properly Used)
- 5 – Child Restraint System (Improperly Used)
- 6 – Motorcycle Helmet
- 7 – Bicycle Helmet
- 8 – Unknown
- 9 – Booster Seat (Properly Used)
- 10 – Booster Seat (Improperly Used)
- 11 – Non-Motorist Lighting
- 12 – Reflective Clothing/Backpack/Equipment
Child restraint systems are very important to keep children safe while in vehicles. But, unfortunately, a staggering 59 percent of car seats aren’t used correctly. Parents also sometimes transition from a car seat to a standard seat belt too early—often when kids should be using a booster seat so that regular seat belts fit them properly.
Like seat belts, if a child isn’t in their car seat or booster seat correctly, that can actually decrease the amount of money damages that you can receive in your legal case in some circumstances. It’s crucial for your child that you review the safety instructions and the height and weight restrictions of children’s safety equipment.
A couple of these classes of equipment also specifically apply to pedestrians and bicyclists. Lighting and reflective clothing can significantly increase your visibility as someone outside of a vehicle, especially when visibility is not good (such as at dusk, dawn, during foggy or rainy weather, and in the evening).
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report requires that officers set out where each occupant of the vehicle is located before the crash occurred. This information helps identify where a passenger may have been hit, which, in turn, may indicate the type and severity of the injuries that they experienced due to the crash.
Seating position codes listed on the crash report
There is a diagram in the Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report Training Manual that is labeled with the various codes that affect seating position so officers can see which direction terms like “left” and “right” refer to. The directions are based on if someone was sitting in the vehicle. That is, the left side is the same side on which the driver sits.
The various potential seating positions include:
- 1 – Front Seat – Left Side (Operator)
- 2 – Front Seat – Middle
- 3 – Front Seat – Right Side
- 4 – Rear Seat – Left Side
- 5 – Rear Seat – Middle
- 6 – Rear Seat – Right Side
- 7 – Other Seat – Interior
- 8 – Riding on Vehicle Exterior
- 9 – Non-Motorist – Outside of Vehicle*
*Category 9 – Non-Motorist—was added in 2018. It will generally address those who are involved in an accident like pedestrians and bicyclists.
Although other vehicles may have variations of seating, the officer much choose the closest description to meet the circumstances. For example, if the car has a third row of seating, the passengers in the third row would still likely be considered as sitting in the “rear seat.” But, that can be confusing if there are passengers in the second row of seating as well. The officer will have to use the notes or comments section to describe where each person was located before the incident occurred. They might also put a code of “other seat” for this type of situation as well.
Special seating position codes for motorcycles
These categories are focused on the standard positions in a standard passenger vehicle. But, the training manual also includes a diagram for motorcycles as well. Bikers have just three of the nine categories. They include:
- 1 – Front Seat – Left Side (Operator)
- 4 – Rear Seat – Left Side
- 9 – Non-Motorist – Outside of the Vehicle
Although technically every motorcycle rider is “riding on vehicle exterior,” this category isn’t used for motorcycles. Instead, it’s specifically used for anyone riding on the trunk, hood, or another part of a car or truck.
Every person involved in the accident, whether that person is a pedestrian, driver, or passenger will have a notation regarding whether they are male or female. This is another category of information that may not contribute directly to the accident, but it’s something that both the federal government and the State of Georgia track for recording purposes.
In one study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that studied crashes for a ten-year period, they reported that crash fatalities were higher for males across all age groups compared to females. Looking at age and sex for patterns may help the state develop safety plans across the state and the country. This type of information also affects insurance premiums over time as well.
Sex codes on the crash report
There are just two choices listed for the sex of the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report:
- M – Male
- F – Female
It is one of just a few categories that uses letters instead of numbers for the code. In most situations, using letters makes it easy to tell with a quick glance the sex of every individual involved in the accident.
Note that, although there is increasing awareness nationwide about transgender individuals, the Crash Report has not been updated to reflect this. It only allows an officer to enter one of the two traditional biological sexes. In cases where a transgender individual is involved in an accident, the officer will use their discretion in how to fill in this section — and that may or may not accurately reflect the person’s gender identity. While this can be upsetting, in most cases it will not affect your accident claim in any way.
Surface conditions of a road can be a significant factor in the reason that an accident occurs. This category of the crash report is focused on how certain weather conditions affect the road, rather than issues with maintenance or upkeep on the street. But, weather and maintenance issues can combine to create hazardous conditions under the right circumstances. For example, if a large pothole collects water, making it hard to tell how deep it is or that it dips at all, that type of condition can lead to accidents, especially if you are on a smaller vehicle like a motorcycle.
Surface condition codes listed on the crash report
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report includes several general categories of surface conditions, including:
- 1 – Dry
- 2 – Wet
- 3 – Snow
- 4 – Ice/Frost
- 5 – Other
- 6 – Mud
- 7 – Sand
- 8 – Slush
- 9 – Oil
- 10 – Water (Standing or Moving)
Not all surface conditions are related to weather, but most are. Oil and sand, for example, are often the result of spills from other vehicles or from errors made by nearby construction projects. Nonetheless, these conditions can make it hard to control your car, which may cause a collision.
Taken for treatment
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report you are given after an accident will indicate whether any passenger or driver was taken to the hospital or another medical facility after the crash. This is listed as a simple yes/no numeric code under the “Taken for Treatment” section.
If the Taken for Treatment section is filled in with the number one, it means that the individual was immediately transported to the doctor — but that immediate transport doesn’t have to be in an ambulance or another emergency vehicle. Instead, it can be something as simple as another person taking you to the hospital. But, it must occur right away to be noted on the report, and you need to make sure that the officer knows about it. If you go to the doctor later that date or the following day, for example, the report likely won’t be altered.
Codes and notation for “taken for treatment” on the Georgia crash report
The Georgia Crash Report has only two codes regarding “taken for treatment.” These include:
- 1 – Yes
- 2 – No
Whether you are taken for treatment will determine if the officer needs to answer some additional follow up questions as well, including:
- Where the injured person was taken for treatment
- Who transported the injured person to the hospital, including whether you were taken by ambulance
- The time that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was notified of the injured person
- The time that EMS arrived at the scene
- The time that the injured person arrived at the hospital
If you are unsure whether you need medical help after a car accident, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of going to the doctor.
“Test Type” is a field on a Georgia Accident Report which shows what type of test, if any, a driver was required to take to detect alcohol and/or drugs after a car accident. Not all tests are equally reliable.
Drug and alcohol testing is required after some types of collisions, particularly those that involve drivers who are acting as an employee at the time of the accident. It is also necessary if a driver holds a commercial driver’s license.
The type of test that an officer uses will determine how reliable it is for your personal injury case. Thankfully, the kind of test that the police used will be noted on the Accident Report.
What types of drug or alcohol tests are available after an accident in Georgia?
Generally, an officer can only use certain types of drug or alcohol tests at the scene of the accident. The Accident Report has codes for the following types of tests:
Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests are the most common. Field sobriety tests may include:
- Walking in a straight line
- Touching your nose
- Moving your eyes back and forth to follow an object
- Saying the alphabet
If the officer gives a field sobriety test or another type of test, they should indicate that in the narrative section of the report.
Results of urine and blood tests cannot immediately be determined. If the officer doesn’t have that information right away, they need to follow up after the report is complete to include this information later. It will be provided on a supplemental report but is not an entirely separate report. That means that when you request a police report, you should get any additional reports attached to the main document as well.
How accurate are drug tests given after a car accident?
Each type of alcohol or drug test has a different accuracy level. The kind of test the police use will have an effect on your personal injury case because it could be very accurate or its reliability may be in question.
- Devices used to test a driver’s blood alcohol concentration by their breath are easy to carry and use, which is why officers use them routinely in the field. While technology has improved a great deal in recent years, these devices may be inaccurate by up to 23% of the time.
- Blood testing. Blood tests are considered the most accurate form of drug and alcohol testing. But, the results of these tests are usually delayed because officers do not test blood in the field.
- Urine testing. Urine testing is more often used for drug tests. Its accuracy rating is very high, but there are reasons that a false positive may occur as well. As a rule, however, urine tests are generally considered good evidence of drug use during a car accident.
- Field sobriety tests. The accuracy of field sobriety tests varies widely. In some situations, these tests are not accurate as much as 70% of the time. But, when this type of test is given, it is also sometimes followed up with a more accurate test, such as a blood or urine test.
Traffic control devices frequently play a significant role in collisions in Georgia. Often, drivers who misread, ignore, or simply don’t see traffic control devices will cause accidents. This type of information is included on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report in large part because failing to follow a traffic control device will often result in a criminal citation being issued.
Having information about whether a traffic control device was present and whether it was violated can be very helpful in a car accident case. Such a violation can result in a concept known as “negligence per se.” At its most basic level, that concept will assume that the other driver was at fault because they disobeyed or ignored a traffic control device.
Traffic control methods on the crash report
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report lists several options as traffic controls. The officer will set out any traffic control that may have been involved in the crash, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the traffic control contributed to or caused the accident. It merely states that the listed control was present. The notes or comments section will often indicate whether a traffic control device was a cause or contributing factor to the accident, but not always.
The officer will note a traffic control for each vehicle. That means that they can state whether one car had a stop sign, for example, while the other did not have a traffic control device at that particular intersection.
The codes used in the traffic controls section include:
- 0 – Gate. Gates are sometimes used as traffic control devices in both residential and commercial areas. They are far less likely to be present on the highway or interstate.
- 1 – No Control Present. The officer has the option to note that one or more of the cars involved in the crash was not governed by a traffic control device.
- 2 – Traffic Signal. A traffic signal will generally include a traffic light that has red, yellow, and green lights, but it can consist of turn arrows and other signals as well.
- 3 – RR Signal/Sign. Railroad crossing signs or signals generally aren’t involved in car-on-car crashes, but they are a significant factor in accidents that involve passenger or commercial vehicles and trains.
- 4 – Warning Sign. A warning sign could include any sign that gives drivers a heads up about specific hazards on the road. Examples might be construction zone warnings, for example, or bumps or debris that may be in the street. Sometimes warning signs in a location where an accident occurred to indicate that a driver should have slowed down in that area to respond to the hazard in place.
- 5 – Stop Sign. Running through stop signs is one of the most common reasons that accidents occur. Inattention is a dominant cause for this type of traffic control error. This type of traffic control is often noted when a vehicle ignores the right of way at intersections as well.
- 6 – No Passing Zone. When cars ignore no passing zone restrictions, they sometimes end up in the line of oncoming traffic because they cannot see that they are coming. These accidents can be severe because they occur at higher speeds.
- 7 – Lanes. Although lane markers are sometimes overlooked as traffic control devices, they are actually extremely vital traffic controls. When a vehicle leaves its lane, severe accidents occur, often in large part because other vehicles expect drivers to stay in their lane and may not have time to react to a car leaving its lane before a crash occurs.
- 8 – Other. This category lets the officer indicate that another traffic control device should have controlled the situation and may have contributed to the collision. If this device is marked, it will often include a notation by the officer indicate what this device was and how it affected the accident.
- 9 – Flashing Lights. Flashing lights could consist of any type of light, but they are often seen in construction zones, near stop signs or intersections, and other high-hazard areas. They may also include utility work nearby as well.
- 10 – Yield Sign. This separate category was added in 2018. While yield signs have been a part of the Motor Vehicle Report in the past, they were previously included with a stop sign violation. But, yield signs are treated differently to control the flow of traffic, so they were provided with their own separate notation.
Traffic way flow
When officers in Georgia fill out a crash report, in most cases they must complete the “Traffic Way Flow” section. Traffic Way Flow simply refers to which direction(s) traffic was moving in the street where the accident occurred.
This information is surprisingly important to your accident claim. A good car accident lawyer can use traffic way flow as a factor in determining which party was negligent and at fault. This is especially true in the vehicles collided in a way that is unusual for how traffic was moving — which may indicate that one driver was out of their lane, headed in the wrong direction, or turning or passing illegally. Insurance companies make the same calculation, but they may not bring it up if it would make their insured look more negligent. This is why it’s so important to have a lawyer fighting to get you everything you deserve.
Understanding the traffic way flow code on the crash report
There are only five options that officers can use for Traffic Way Flow, but they won’t usually write them in — in most cases, they will simply write in a number.
Here is what the numbers mean in the Traffic Way Flow section:
- Two-way Traffic-way (with No Physical Separation). This is a normal two-way road with only a painted yellow line separating the two directions of traffic. If both directions are on the same paved road with nothing between them, officers choose this option.
- Two-way Traffic-way (with a Physical Separation). This means that there is something more than a lane marker separating the two directions of traffic, but no actual wall or barrier preventing cars from crossing over.
- Two-way Traffic-way (with a Physical Barrier). If there is an actual barrier, such as a wall, that physically prevents vehicles from crossing into oncoming traffic, officers choose this option.
- One-way Traffic-way. Applies to all true one-way roads.
- Continuous Turning Lane. Have you ever been on a street or highway that has a dedicated lane for left turns? This can be an ongoing lane, where anyone can turn left at any time, or a break in a median where a left turn lane branches off from the main road. These are known as “continuous turning lanes” in the crash report.
Continuous turning lanes are specifically broken out from other traffic situations for a reason: left-turn accidents are very common and tend to have very specific causes (almost always negligence on one driver’s behalf) compared to other accidents.
On the crash report, an officer can note what kind of entity owns or operates a vehicle that was involved in your crash. This is known as the “vehicle class” and simply classifies whether it was owned by an individual, a company, a government agency, etc. This type of notation is important for your car accident case because it may indicate that the driver may not be the only party who should be included in your lawsuit.
In general, any person or entity that owns the vehicle should be involved in your claim. Their insurance will often cover the driver, especially if that person is an entity’s employee or was authorized to use someone else’s car. There are a few exceptions to this general rule, but having this information will at least allow you to investigate further.
Classes of vehicles noted on the crash report
The most common type of vehicle is a privately owned car. Not only are there more privately owned cars on the road, but the qualifications to get private licenses are much lower than other vehicles. That means that there are more private driver’s licenses than any other type of license. That is why most codes in this section will simply say “1” to mark that this car or truck is owned by an individual. The type of vehicle is not relevant—such as whether it is a car, truck, or SUV—only who owns the vehicle will be necessary for this section of the Georgia motor vehicle crash report.
Other potential classes of vehicles include:
- If the police own and operate one of the cars involved in the crash, it will be noted here. Squad cars are the most common vehicle involved in accidents in Georgia.
- If the fire department owns the vehicle, that will be noted here. These include both fire trucks and any other vehicle that the fire department may own.
- School buses are the most common vehicles involved in these kinds of collisions, but these cars could also be simply owned by the school as well, including smaller vehicles to transport students and administrative vehicles.
- Other government-owned. Any time the government owns a vehicle, it should be noted. This includes both the federal and state government. These are often administrative vehicles, but not always.
- It is rare that military vehicles are noted on an accident report, but it does occasionally occur.
- Commercial motor vehicle (CMV). A commercial motor vehicle is usually a semi-truck or another large commercial vehicle. But, the CMV designation also covers any type of vehicle that is owned by a business, including work trucks going to and from job sites, for example.
- Non-transport emergency services vehicles/HERO. These vehicles are owned and operated by the Department of Transportation. They help clear accidents and assist motorists who are stranded to get help or get back on the road. Although they initially only operated in Atlanta, they now function state-wide.
- Passenger Service Vehicle. The overlay specifically indicates that this code is for taxis. But, it could include ride-sharing vehicles like Uber and Lyft as well.
Vehicle configuration refers to the type of vehicle and the load it may carry, whether that load is cargo or passengers. Unlike cargo body type, which refers to what kind of cargo a vehicle can carry, vehicle configuration has to do mainly with how large and heavy-duty a vehicle is, or how many axles it has.
The type of vehicle involved in a car accident will have an effect on the kind of damages, the parties that may be included, and may even indicate the reason that another driver was unable to control their vehicle. At first glance, vehicle configuration may not seem like a big deal, but it can have a significant impact on your personal injury case.
Vehicle configurations listed on the crash report
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report has codes for nine overarching types of vehicles. These include:
- 1 – Bus (Seating for More Than 15 Passengers). Large buses include public transportation, school buses, charter buses, and other similar vehicles. Drivers in these vehicles must often hold unique licenses and be specially trained to operate these buses. Bus accidents can lead to serious injuries that affect a much larger number of people compared to the average car accident.
- 2 – Single Unit Truck: 2 Axles. Many commercial trucks will fall under this type of vehicle configuration. An axle is a good indication of the number of tires on the vehicle. When there are two axles, there are four tires—two on each axle. These vehicles often aren’t as large as a traditional semi-truck, but they can be.
- 3 – Single Unit Truck: 3 or More Axles. These vehicles are much larger. They may include oversized trucks. These bigger trucks are harder to control, which can lead to an increased potential for trucking accidents.
- 4 – Truck Trailer. When a commercial truck consists of two parts, a tractor, and a trailer, this configuration will be used when the semi is carrying a cargo load. These vehicles are some of the most common commercial trucks on the road.
- 5 – Truck Tractor (Bobtail). There are situations where the tractor portion of the truck will need to travel without a load. This is often referred to as “bobtailing.” When a tractor does not have a load, it’s less likely that the owner of the load that the truck driver was on the way to pick up will be involved in your personal injury case after a crash.
- 6 – Tractor with Twin Trailers. These vehicles are sometimes referred to as “long combination” vehicles. They have more than one trailer attached, often with a longer bar between them. Commercial semis sometimes use this configuration, but it’s also used by construction companies to carry materials as well. These long vehicles are tough to control, and drivers need to be extremely cautious when operating them. Some areas don’t allow them at all, but the State of Georgia permits them on most interstates and highways.
- 7 – Unknown Heavy Truck. When an officer knows that the vehicle is a larger, heavy truck, but is unsure of the type, they can mark this category. In some situations, the officer will get more information about the vehicle to do an update on the report later, but not always. This type of investigation is more likely to be completed if the accident is severe.
- 8 – Bus/Large Van (Seats for 9 to 15 Occupants Including Driver). This category was added in 2018 to account for larger vans that don’t necessarily fall under the category of a bus. Some nine-passenger vans don’t have special license requirements, but they are still harder to drive because they are larger and have much bigger blind spots. When inexperienced or careless drivers operate these vehicles, it may lead to accidents that cause damages and injuries—and legal liability.
- 9 – Vehicle 10,000 Pounds or Less, Placarded for Hazardous Materials. There are many types of vehicles that can haul hazardous materials. While most are larger commercial vehicles, that is not always the case. This category was added in 2018 to account for vehicles that fall in between passenger vehicles and trucks but that are permitted to carry hazardous materials. Hazardous materials must be marked based on federal legal requirements because this type of cargo presents unique risks, including increased likelihood of fire or combustion and the potential for environmental damage if the material spills on the road or affects nearby wildlife or homeowners.
Vehicle contributing factors
Although driver error is by far the most common explanation for a car accident, there are certainly other reasons that collisions happen. In some situations, the vehicle itself may have had problems that contributed to the crash, such as faulty equipment, poor repairs, and other related issues. In these circumstances, officers can note what was wrong with a vehicle on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report. This section is known as the “vehicle condition” section, sometimes called vehicle contributing factors. These are different than contributing factors related to the operator.
Keep in mind that just because a vehicle malfunctioned does not mean that the other driver escapes legal liability. Their reaction to the malfunction may not have been appropriate, which could trigger a requirement to pay you money damages. Other parties may also be to blame in vehicle malfunction situations as well.
What types of vehicle contributing factors might be noted on the crash report?
Any vehicle malfunction could lead to an accident. But, a few types of vehicle failures occur more often than others. Some of the factors officers can choose from on the report include:
- Tire failure. When a tire blows, it can become very difficult to control your vehicle. But, drivers are still expected to maintain control as much as possible. That means that legal responsibility can still result from a driver who hits you because their tire blew.
- Brake failure. Brake failures can lead to very serious injuries and damage. While brake failures may be outside of the driver’s control in some situations, it could also be directly connected to some other driver failure too. The unique facts of your case will play a big role in your ability to get money damages for your injuries.
- Improper or inoperative lights/signals. Signaling intentions to turn or switch lanes can prevent accidents. When lights or signals don’t work, including brakes lights or headlights, those can result in collisions.
- Steering failure. Today’s vehicles rarely have problems with steering mechanisms, but it does happen occasionally. When a driver cannot properly maneuver their car, a serious accident can occur.
- Slick tires. When a driver goes through water, it can result in a phenomenon known as “hydroplaning.” This occurs when the tires no longer touch the ground and are just traveling over the water. It results in a momentary loss of control that can be catastrophic.
- Generally, a mirror malfunctions when it’s completely missing or broken. In many cases, this problem is the result of the driver failing to replace or repair a broken mirror.
- Power train. The power train is the connection between the engine and the axle. It allows you to actually steer and control your vehicle. Malfunctions with the power train could be physical, or they could be due to the onboard computer network as well.
- Although suspension problems are relatively common, they are generally not severe enough to cause a crash. But, there are situations where a faulty suspension results in a loss of control over your vehicle that can lead to an accident.
- Truck coupling/trailer hitch/safety chains. When a trailer or other portion of a vehicle is not hooked up correctly, it can come loose and cause serious damage.
- Windows/windshield. Malfunctions with windshields are rare, but they can occur in the context of having a broken window or having a mechanism to prevent fog or condensation on your windows that could inhibit your ability to see potential hazards and other vehicles.
- Wipers are relevant in the context of heavy rains and where you need to remove debris from the windows to see properly.
In addition, officers also have the option to mark “other” for any other vehicle issue that played a role in the crash and write in an explanation. If there was nothing wrong with the vehicles, officers could also mark “no contributing factors.”
Who is legally responsible for vehicle malfunctions?
In general, drivers in Georgia are required to keep their vehicles in good working order so that they are not hazardous to other people on the road. When a driver knows about a problem with their car and they fail to address it, that can lead to a legal responsibility to pay for your injuries and property damage.
But, what happens when the other driver had no idea there was a problem with their car? Are they still liable? Maybe. It will depend on whether they took action to ensure that their vehicle was in proper working order. For example, if the driver knew that their steering had been difficult lately, but they weren’t sure what was wrong, they could still be at fault when their steering goes out and injure you.
There are also other people or entities who could also be partially at fault for your crash. These include:
- Anyone who did maintenance on the vehicle. If the repairs or regular maintenance that was performed on the car were not done correctly or wasn’t done at all, then a mechanic or repair shop may have to pay for your damages.
- Vehicle manufacturer. There are situations where the car itself was not built correctly or where it has a poor or dangerous design. Under those circumstances, the vehicle manufacturer may also have legal liability.
- Parts manufacturers. There may have been just one part or piece of equipment that caused the accident. If you are able to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, you may also be able to include the manufacturer that only created or installed that one particular part. Vehicle manufacturers may outsource the production of certain parts, which may mean legal liability extends to other companies as well.
- Individuals or companies who load or attach trailers. If the vehicle malfunction is the result of improper loading or attachment that leads to a truck accident, anyone who helped with that process could be legally responsible for your damages and injuries.
Keep in mind that even if there are other parties that have some fault, the driver may also need to be included in the lawsuit as well.
The vast majority of car accidents involve moving vehicles. That’s why the Georgia motor vehicle crash report allows an officer to describe what the car was doing just before or during the collision—known as the “vehicle maneuver” section of the report. The turning categories are used the most often, but other descriptions are helpful as well. Describing what the vehicle was doing may be important to determine the cause of the crash, an extremely important to your lawsuit, whether it involves a car, truck, motorcycle, or pedestrian.
Types of vehicle maneuvers noted on the crash report
Every crash is different, but many have the same patterns. That is why is it relatively easy to classify each type of collision as having a specific maneuver attached to it. Normally, an officer will use one of the maneuvers listed below. But, there is an “other” category as well, just in case some of the more traditional movements are not appropriate for your situation.
- Turning Left and Turning Right. Turning vehicles are much more likely to collide with another car or pedestrian than those traveling straight. Left-turn accidents are especially dangerous because you cross oncoming traffic to make your turn. Right turns may cut off a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist to your right if you’re not careful.
- Making a U-turn. U-turns can be very dangerous because you often cannot effectively signal for them and you are essentially cutting off two lanes of traffic when you make this type of move. Be sure to only make U-turns in areas where they are permitted.
- Stopped and Parked. When another car hits a stopped or parked vehicle, the officer will note that one of the other cars was not moving at the time of the collision. Note that there’s a difference between a stopped vehicle (often found at an intersection) and a car that parked (such as along the side of the road or in a parking lot).
- When a vehicle is traveling straight, the officer will mark this particular maneuver. Note that there is another section for changing lanes or driving on a curve. The car actually has to be moving straight ahead for this code to be indicated.
- Changing Lanes. The vehicle must actually be in the act of switching lanes with the crash that occurred to use this code—not slowing or signally to move, but actually engaging in the movement.
- You may be surprised to learn of the large number of crashes that take place because someone was not looking behind them while backing. Also, small vehicles, like bikes and motorcycles, are easy to miss when you’re backing up.
- This code is different from switching lanes—it is more often used on two-lane roads instead of four-lane highways or interstates. This code will be used if the vehicle was passing, even if the car was traveling straight ahead.
- Negotiating a Curve. Curves can be very tricky, especially when a driver is speeding or when there are other factors at play, such as weather or poor road conditions.
- Entering/Leaving Parking or Driveway. Each of these conditions has a separate code, but they are similar. Sometimes it can be difficult to see when drivers leave parking areas or driveways, or they may not always look out for those around them as well as they should.
- PIT stands for “Pursuit Intervention Technique.” It is used when an officer is attempting to apprehend a fleeing vehicle. Essentially, the officer will speed up so that they are right alongside the car and then pass them about half of a car length and suddenly merge into their lane of traffic, generally on the right. The maneuver stops the fleeing vehicle because it has virtually no choice but to run into the side of the officer’s car or off the road. It is rare that this type of maneuver will be noted on an accident report that is at issue in a car accident case, but it could happen.
The officer will use these codes for any and all vehicles involved in a collision. There are situations where a vehicle’s maneuver may not be known, but those are rare—such as in large pile-up accidents.
There is a separate section for maneuvers that do not involve vehicles, including pedestrians and children who may have run into the road. These are referred to as “non-motorist maneuvers.”
The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report requires officers to note what kind of vehicle(s) were involved in the accident. This is known as “Vehicle Type” and has its own section on the form. This is just one of many details that can be important for your car accident case, especially if there is a question about whether someone stopped in time or was speeding (a large vehicle, for example, will need a greater distance to brake than a smaller vehicle).
“Vehicle types” listed on the crash report
Vehicle Type tends to be one of the more straightforward sections of the crash report and easier to understand than other sections because most people are already familiar with different types of vehicles. For example, we can all understand that a bicycle accident is very different from a truck accident.
Nonetheless, the crash report is pretty comprehensive and makes some distinctions that the average person wouldn’t necessarily bother with. In fact, there are 23 different types of vehicles the officer can list on your crash report. They are:
- Passenger Car
- Pickup Truck
- Truck Tractor (Bobtail)
- Tractor W/Twin Trailers
- Logging Truck
- Logging Tractor/Trailer
- Single Unit Truck
- Panel Truck
- Utility Passenger Vehicle
- Vehicle With Trailer
- Truck Towing House Trailer
- Motorized Recreational Vehicle
- Motorcycle, Scooter, or Minibike
- “Pedalcycle” or Bicycle
- Farm or Construction. Equip.
- All-Terrain Vehicle
- Go cart
The most common options are passenger car, pickup truck, and van, but the options try to be as comprehensive as possible — nearly any kind of vehicle can fit under one of these types.
Even so, officers are allowed to choose “other” if something truly doesn’t fit. In that case, they will write an explanation of what the vehicle was.
The difference between vehicle type and vehicle class
Although it sounds similar, vehicle class is very different from vehicle type. Vehicle class refers to who owns a vehicle or what sort of use the vehicle is intended for — for example, a commercial truck is different from one driven by a private citizen, which is different from one owned by the local government. On the other hand, vehicle type just refers to what kind of vehicle it is. For example, a truck is different than a bus.
Both sections should be filled out on the report.
Vision obscured by
While not every car accident involves obscured vision, it’s common enough that the Georgia motor vehicle crash report has its own “Vision Obscured By” section. “Vision Obscured By” will include a code from 1 to 7 explaining what, if anything, obscured the driver’s vision. It can help determine who is at fault in the accident.
Unfortunately, it’s not always transparent to the motorist themselves what these codes mean. The officers have a helpful overlay that tells them exactly what number to choose — and they’ve been given instructions on how to use it. But as the person receiving this report, you typically have none of these resources. It can feel like a mystery, and it’s frustrating.
Understanding the “vision obscured by” codes on your crash report
Here are the “vision obscured by” codes an officer can use:
- Not Obscured. This is most common, and it’s used in the majority of cases. If there was no vision issue, officers will write in number 1.
- Headlights. The driver was “night-blinded” by oncoming headlights (often high beams).
- Sunlight. If the motorist found themselves driving directly into the sun, officers will use this code — but note that indirect sunlight often becomes an issue when there is moisture on the windshield, which would be number 6.
- Parked Vehicle. This is mainly used in intersection accidents, where one person couldn’t see traffic coming from the left or right side because of parked vehicles. (This is unfortunately common at many of the most dangerous intersections.)
- Trees, Bushes. Again, this mostly applies at intersections or on curves.
- Rain, Snow, Ice on Windshield. In Georgia, this is usually rain or condensation — not snow. These can obscure vision on their own or compound with sunlight to become almost blinding.
- Other. Sometimes it’s something not covered here, like mud on the windshield, fog, or a smoke cloud. If the officer chooses “other,” they should write in an explanation.
Why does the cause of vision being obscured matter?
It matters because, most of the time, if vision is a factor in the accident then it is essential to understanding who is at fault. Here are two examples:
- Driver #1 can’t see and ends up veering out of their lane into a parked car. The reason they couldn’t see was that an oncoming vehicle had its high beams on and didn’t turn them off, even after Driver #1 flashes their lights a couple of times. The oncoming driver is at fault.
- Driver #2 can’t see and veers into a parked car… but the reason is that the sun reflected off of dust on their windshield. In theory, being blinded by the sun seems like no one’s fault, but everyone has a responsibility to keep their windshield clean (or to slow down and pull over if they’re suddenly blinded). Driver #2 is at fault.
This is why car accident lawyers treat the crash report as such an important piece of information.
There are circumstances where the weather can plan a huge part in the reason that a crash occurred. If that’s the case, it’s important that the weather is noted correctly on the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report.
Weather codes listed on the crash report
Weather is open to interpretation in many cases. What one person says is “sunny” may be considered “cloudy” to someone else. The weather category is deliberately broad so that the officer can choose the most appropriate general data point. In many situations, the officer will specifically note in the comments section whether they believe the weather had an impact on the reason the accident occurred.
The general weather codes include:
- 1 – Clear
- 2 – Cloudy
- 3 – Rain
- 4 – Snow
- 5 – Sleet
- 6 – Fog
- 7 – Other
- 8 – Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado
The last category was added in 2018 to account for more severe weather that may include high winds and heavy rains, often resulting in visibility problems.
When most people think about “work zones,” on the road, they automatically assume that it is a construction zone. But, there are actually several types of work zones in Georgia. The Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report has a specific space to indicate whether the car accident occurred in a work zone because those types of crashes come with additional consequences and may have more parties involved than just another driver. Each type of work zone is noted with a numeric code, explained below.
What is a work zone on the crash report?
The Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) and various utility companies often do work on the road without closing the way to traffic. They do this to minimize the disruption that the average person feels in traveling throughout the state. But, not shutting down roads means that it may be more dangerous while drivers move through these areas.
A work zone is an area of the road or portion of the shoulder where work is being performed. Utility work is often conducted just off the road, but vehicles that actually perform the work may need to be parked on the street.
A work zone is marked with a large orange sign that indicates that road work is in progress. Even if it looks like no work is being performed, those signs show where the work zone starts and stops.
On the crash report, these are also referred to as Construction/Maintenance Zones.
Need-to-know work zone safety
Accidents that occur in work zones often affect workers in addition to those in the vehicles involved. For this reason, the State of Georgia frequently engages in safety campaigns to encourage drivers to be extra careful in work zone areas. They suggest the following safety tips to use in work zones:
- Do not speed. Nearly all work zones require that you reduce your speed as you drive through
- Expect the unexpected. Work zones frequently change, including the pattern of traffic
- Don’t tailgate. Give the car in front of you plenty of room to navigate the work area. You may need to stop suddenly to avoid rear-ending them
- Stay alert. Put your phone down and minimize distractions as much as possible so you can fully focus on the road
- Keep up with the flow of traffic. Some drivers will slow to look at the construction work, which can be very dangerous. Resist this urge
- Be patient and flexible. Work zones will often increase your commute time. Give yourself plenty of time to get through these areas
Keep in mind that Georgia has a “move over” law that requires you to change lanes or slow when you spot maintenance or construction vehicles on the side of the road.
Construction/maintenance work zone codes on the crash report
Georgia has harsh penalties for traffic violations in work zones, including fines and even potential jail time for failing to follow posted reduced speed signs.
Although work zones are separately defined in the Georgia Motor Vehicle Crash Report, they are all very similar. This type of notation is often simply used to indicate the kind of work zone in case an issue with fault arises that may have been caused by a worker.
The codes used for work zones include:
- Officers are required to investigate whether the accident occurred in a work zone. Forcing the officer to mark “none” instead of just not completing this section of the police report means that an investigation was conducted, and the officer determined that the driver was not in a work zone.
- Construction zones could include both work on the road itself and nearby work being done to a building or another structure. The work does not actually have to be performed on the street for it to be considered a work zone.
- This type of work zone is by far the most prevalent. Maintenance work is frequently performed on small areas of the road that is sometimes not marked well.
- Utility work is sometimes performed on the road itself, but it’s far more common for it to be just off the road. The road may be blocked off to ensure that there is a safe distance between workers and equipment and oncoming traffic.
- Unknown type. It is not always clear what kind of work is being performed in the area right away. Sometimes an officer will mark unknown in those situations. In many cases, the officer will do some additional investigation and add on or amend the report to provide this type of information later, but not always.
Using an accident report in your car accident case
John Foy & Associates can help you read and understand your accident report. We can also help you use that information as part of your car accident case. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.