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How Serious Crashes Are Investigated

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

How do police investigations of serious car and truck crashes differ from how the police might investigate a simple collision with minor injuries?

A standard officer’s crash report is usually prepared in almost every crash case; sometimes, it’s called an incident report.

If a crash occurs in a shopping center’s parking lot, the security guards that work at the shopping center complete the report. But, if a collision occurs on a public roadway, the police are responsible for the investigation.

When a serious collision occurs, the investigations often become more detailed. This is so especially when the injuries are severe or life-threatening.

A serious crash may involve multiple cars, cars and trucks, multiple trucks, or other vehicle combinations.

In these serious injury cases, law enforcement usually will create a report that supplements the basic crash report.

These supplementary reports might include an effort by a crash reconstruction team to reconstruct the crash.

They might consist of detailed witness statements stating what was observed during the collision.

There may also be toxicology reports if alcohol or drug use was suspected in one or more of the drivers.

There is also usually a DOT inspection when it comes to a serious crash involving a truck. That’s where the Department of Transportation police officers thoroughly inspect the vehicle for violations.

These reports have proved very helpful in several cases that we have tried.

An inspection report by the DOT might show that the brakes were not functioning correctly or that even a set of brakes was disabled.

The report will address dysfunctional warning lights of any type on the vehicle.

It might show that the vehicle was overweight.

The DOT inspection report might also show that the driver exceeded the maximum number of hours that regulations permit the driver to drive without rest.

As noted in other episodes, long-haul semi-tractor-trailer drivers must keep logs. Those logs must be up-to-date if the driver is ever stopped by an inspection officer.

Also, the police will make a more thorough effort to photograph and videotape the crash scene.

Aside from specific efforts to photograph and videotape, there is usually available vehicle dash cam footage or body cam footage.

In other words, many police cars have a dash cam that will record the police vehicle pulling up to the scene.

The body cam will show the police officer getting out of the car and going up to the vehicles and the occupants.

This information is not usually available in a small, low-impact crash.

Another type of information that becomes very important when dealing with serious crashes would be 911 call records and dispatch recordings.

We recall a collision involving a van struck by a train at a railroad crossing. The dispatch recordings of 911 calls were very significant. They revealed which officer first arrived at the scene, when ambulances were called, and what officers reported back to the dispatcher.

Other information that can be helpful in a severe crash case includes video footage from surrounding properties such as restaurants, gas stations, and banks.

Increasingly valuable information is found in event recorder data on the vehicles.

Tractor trailers require special event recorders, and most cars have them too.

GPS data may show the speed of vehicles and the location of vehicles on the roadway at the time of the crash. Many trucking companies require their drivers to be linked to GPS devices that monitor the truck to ensure it’s not driving over the speed limit.

Of course, aside from the police investigation materials that we discussed, in a truck case, we must carefully examine the driver qualification files and moving violation records of the driver involved in the crash.

This list is by no means complete. However, we hope it reveals a big difference between a minor injury crash and a severe crash involving cars and/or trucks.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”