How to Read Your California Police Accident Report

If you’re injured in a car accident in the Los Angeles area or anywhere in California, you need to call the police. The investigating officer will fill out a report, called a Traffic Collision Report (CHP-555). Your insurance company review the information in this report while handling your claim, and you and your attorney need to review it, too.

We’ve reviewed hundreds of these reports at Ardalan & Associates, and we’re happy to help. Our attorneys have prepared this brief guide to understanding your collision report. If you have questions about your report, or if you see something inaccurate, contact us today. Call (888) 259-5861.

California Police Accident Report

Page One

Top Section/Location Section

  • “Special Conditions” includes a number of circumstances that may apply to your accident, including a late report, fatality or emergency vehicle involved.
  • Includes the number of people injured and whether the accident was a hit and run.
  • Location/time of accident and appropriate court district.
  • Report number should match on all pages.
  • Investigating officer’s ID number is listed here.

Party 1 Section

  • The form has room for up to three involved parties (drivers of vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, etc.) If your accident involved more than three parties, the officer will attach additional pages.
  • Driver’s license information is listed here, if applicable. (Left blank for pedestrians, etc.)
  • Air Bag section indicates whether an air bag was installed and whether it deployed or should have deployed – which could lead to a claim against the manufacturer.
  • Safety Equipment box indicates whether seat belts or helmets were appropriately used.
  • Demographic and contact information – make sure this is accurate!
  • Direction of travel and speed limit. Note that the listed speed limit should be the limit that applies to the vehicle in question – for instance, some highways have lower speed limits for heavy commercial trucks. This can help us understand whether a vehicle was speeding.
  • Vehicle information including year, make, model and license plate.
  • Contact information for the owner, if the owner is not the driver.
  • Any known mechanical defects are listed here. This can be relevant to an insurance claim in a number of ways. The insurance will not pay to repair a prior defect, and an owner who negligently failed to repair a dangerous mechanical issue may be found at fault.
  • Vehicle damage, as assessed by the officer at the scene, is described here.

Party 2 and 3 Sections

  • Investigating officer fills out in the same manner as Party 1. Again, additional pages may be used if there are more than three parties.

Bottom Section

  • Investigating officer’s name and ID number are listed as “Preparer’s Name.”
Traffic Collision Coding

Page Two

  • All information in top section should match other pages of the report.
  • Property Damage section includes contact information for owner of the property, whether the owner was contacted and a description of the damage.
  • Next section is a legend used to fill out Page 1 and Page 3.

Traffic Collision Coding

  • This section describes the circumstances that led to the accident, which can be critical for determining fault. If you disagree with the investigating officer, call an attorney right away!
  • The officer marks an X in each section as applicable.
  • Leftmost columns describe the crash as a whole. If a driver broke a traffic law or made another error, that should be listed in part A or B under Primary Collision Factor. (“Other improper driving” will be explained on an attached narrative page.)
  • Weather, lighting, road surface, road condition and traffic controls are all described here.
  • Second column describes the type of crash and the vehicles involved, plus what pedestrians were doing if applicable.
  • Right columns are marked with an X for each party involved. For instance, if party 1 is a driver who was talking on a cell phone at the time of the accident, there would be an X in the 1 column to the left of Cell Phone Handheld In Use.
  • Movement Preceding Collision indicates what each vehicle was doing before the accident.
  • If any party was fatigued or under the influence of drugs, that information is in the bottom right section.
California Police Accident Report

Page Three

  • This page describes injured parties, passengers, and witnesses to the accident.
  • Top section should match all other pages of the report.
  • Injured persons should be listed first, followed by witnesses and uninjured passengers.
  • Each section includes the person’s name and contact information as well as a description of their injuries and where they were treated.
  • Top-right section describes the person’s involvement in the accident – should match Page 1.
  • Contact information for witnesses can be a critical part of an insurance claim!
  • Investigating officer’s name and ID number are at the bottom.

Page Four

  • This page is the investigating officer’s diagram of what happened during the crash. Make sure it is accurate!
  • The diagram should only contain factual details of the accident, not the investigating officer’s opinions.
  • Again, the top section should match all other pages of the report.
  • Investigating officer’s name and ID number are at the bottom.

Click here to download the PDF version.