Understanding Your Accident Report

Understanding Your Car Accident Police Report

Important: If you have your DMV-349, please make sure you have it nearby to use as a reference while reading this article.

Your Crash Report is also known as a DMV-349, and it is available for free by request. Learn how to request your crash report. The crash report may be one of the most valuable documents you will have related to your car accident claim. Understanding exactly what is involved in making the report and who makes the report is as important as understanding what information is contained within. While you likely understand how the DMV-349 is created, this article will focus on the information included in the report and how to locate and understand the information.

A crash report that has been correctly completed by the investigating officer who responded to the scene of the accident contains a vast and sometimes overwhelming volume of information, ranging from documenting the road conditions to correctly identifying the owners of all vehicles involved in the accident. It is very easy to become confused and frustrated when trying to read your crash report, given the large amount of information contained in the formatted coding. If you plan on representing yourself or handling any portion of your personal injury, property damage, Medical Payments or diminished value claim on your own, it is essential that you understand as much about your accident as possible.

A collision is reportable by North Carolina law if it meets one of the following:

  1. The accident resulted in a fatality
  2. The accident resulted in a non-fatal personal injury
  3. The accident resulted in total property damage amounting to $1,000 or more
  4. The accident resulted in property damage of any amount to a vehicle seized

Given the large volume of information and data collected by the investigating officer, North Carolina crash reports are completed with DMV standardized shorthand codes. These DMV codes make the task of understanding the details of a report exceptionally difficult for anyone who is not familiar with the shorthand.

Your accident report will contain detailed information related to any contributing circumstances that the investigating officer determined were involved in the accident. For example, if during the investigation the officer determines that the accident was caused by reckless driving, inattentiveness or alcohol, the officer will place the corresponding DMV code in the appropriate area of the crash report. Most insurance adjusters place a significant amount of weight on these contributing circumstances identified in accident reports. It is important to note that the contributing circumstances identified by the officer will aid the insurance adjuster in determining who is at fault in your accident. However, the insurance adjuster in your claim will never consider the information on the crash report as the only relevant evidence in determining who is at fault in the accident. Therefore, it is common for insurance adjusters to side with their insured (the at-fault driver) if during their investigation the insured makes statements or evidence becomes available that undermines the officer’s determinations related to the listed contributing circumstances.

Locate the contributing circumstances related to your car accident by looking to the right hand side of the first page of your crash report. The contributing circumstances boxes are labeled No. 14 – 19. The activity or actions of the individual drivers, which may have caused or contributed to the accident, are listed in boxes No. 14 – 19 and document the cause of the accident and not necessarily any traffic citations issued.


Understanding the contributing circumstances of your crash report means knowing that numbers typed into boxes No. 14 – 16 relate to the actions of “Unit 1,” and numbers typed into boxes No. 17 – 19 relate to the actions of “Unit 2.” After you have located these boxes, interpret or decode the number or numbers typed in the boxes by referring to the Accident Contributing Circumstance Guide.

For example, should a Crash Report contain the numbers 6 and 11 in boxes No. 17 and 18, this would require knowing that contributing circumstance No. 6 is “Exceeded Authorized Speed Limit” and No. 11 is “Crossed Center Line.” Given that boxes No. 17 and 18 relate to the actions of Unit 2, this would mean that Unit 2, as identified, is believed to have exceeded an authorized speed limit and crossed the center line, causing the collision. Remember that the officer can identify up to three contributing circumstances.

The Crash Report identifies other individuals, including passengers and pedestrians, involved in the collision. The sections designated as Nos. 21 -32 provide detailed information regarding the individual listed. Specifically,

Box 21 – Vehicle Number

This box records the specific vehicle number in the crash (vehicle 1, vehicle 2, etc.) in order to provide location of occupants and/or to identify which vehicle struck which non-motorist. Further, the information in this box identifies what happened to each vehicle involved in the crash.

Box 22 – Person Type

This box lists the person type according to specific codes. The DMV has determined that this box is important for classification purposes to evaluate countermeasures designed for specific peoples.

  1. Driver
  2. Passenger
, Non-Motorist
  3. Pedestrian
  4. Cyclist
  5. Roller Skater, Roller Blader
  6. Other
  7. Unknown

Box 23 – Seating Position

This box records the physical location of the occupant prior to the collision using the following DMV codes. The seating positions for occupants are provided as the left most seating positions in the first three rows of seat positions.

  1. Front – left (driver/motorcycle driver)
  2. Front – middle
  3. Front – right
  4. Second seat – left (motorcycle passenger)
  5. Second seat – middle
  6. Second seat – right
  7. Third row – left (motorcycle passenger)
  8. Third row – middle
  9. Third row – right
  10. Sleeper section of cab (truck)
  11. Passenger in other enclosed passenger area (refer to supplemental multi-occupant 
  12. Passenger in unenclosed area (pickup)
  13. Trailing unit
  14. Riding on vehicle exterior
  15. Unknown

Box 24 – Date of Birth

This box contains date of birth (DOB) in month, day, and year format for each individual involved in the collision. If this information is not available, the officer will often estimate the age of the individual. It is becoming increasing common for this entire box to be redacted for minor children under the age of eighteen if the accident report is not a certified original from the DMV.

Box 25 – Ethnicity

This box records the ethnicity of the designated individuals in the following manner:

  1. W – White
  2. B – Black
  3. I – Native American
  4. H- Hispanic
  5. A- Asian
  6. O – Other (written in narrative)
  7. U – Unknown

Box 26 – Gender

This box records the gender of each person involved in the collision. The DMV believes that this information is necessary to evaluate gender on occupant protection systems and vehicle design characteristics.

  1. M – Male
  2. F – Female
  3. U – Unknown

Box 27 – Occupant/Non-Motorist Protection

This box records information related to the occupant protection, or non-motorist protection, used by person(s) involved in the crash.

  • None used
  • Lap belt only
  • Shoulder and lap belt
  • Shoulder belt only
  • Child restraint
  • Helmet (motorcyclist or non-motorist)

Codes 6-8 for non-motorist only

  1. Protective pads
  2. Reflective clothing
  3. Lighting
  4. Other (written in narrative)
  5. Unable to determine

Box 28 – Air Bag Deployment

This box records the deployment status of an air bag, relative to each occupant of the vehicle. This information is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of air bags and other occupant protection equipment.

  • 0 – No air bags
  • 1 – Not deployed
  • 2 – Deployed – front
  • 3 – Deployed – side
  • 4 – Deployed – both front and side
  • 5 – Unknown

Box 32 – Injury Status

This box records the most severe injury to a person involved in the crash. The DMV believes that this information is necessary for injury outcome analysis and evaluation. This element is also critical in providing linkage between the crash, EMS, and hospital records.

  • 1 – Killed – Deaths which occur within 12 months after the crash.
  • 2 – A injury type (disabling) – Injury obviously serious enough to prevent the person 
injured from performing his normal activities for at least one day beyond the day of the collision. Examples include massive loss of blood, broken bone, or loss of consciousness.
  • 3 – B injury type (evident) – Obvious injury, other than killed or disabling, which is evident at the scene. Bruises, swelling, limping, and soreness are examples. Class B injury would not necessarily prevent the person from carrying out his normal activities.
  • 4 – C injury type (possible) – No visible injury, but person complains of pain, or has been momentarily unconscious.
  • 5 – No injury
  • 6 – Unknown

Box 37 – Alcohol/Drugs Suspected

This box records the investigating officer’s assessment of whether alcohol or drugs were used or involved.

  • No
  • Yes – alcohol, impairment suspected
  • Yes – alcohol, no impairment detected
  • Yes – other drugs, impairment suspected
  • Yes – other drugs, no impairment detected
  • Yes – alcohol and other drugs, impairment suspected
  • Yes – alcohol and other drugs, no impairment detected
  • Unknown

Box 38 – Alcohol/Drugs Test Status

This box documents whether or not a test was given, including the type, or whether a test was refused.

0 – No test

1 – Alcohol test

2 – Test for drugs other than alcohol

3 – Test for alcohol and other drugs

4 – Test refused

5 – Unknown

Box 39 – Test Results

This box records the indication of the degree of presence of alcohol or other drugs through testing.

  • 0 – No test
  • 1 – No alcohol or other drugs
  • 2 – Alcohol (the actual test results ~ percent BAC is to be written in space #39 on the 
DMV-349, if the result is known)
  • 3 – Other drugs reported
  • 4 – Contaminated sample/unusable
  • 5 – Pending
  • 6 – Unknown

Tap to call: (855) 264-8616