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How to Read Your South Dakota Motor Vehicle Accident Report

Step-by-step instructions from car accident attorneys you can trust

When police officers investigate auto accidents in South Dakota, they normally fill out an accident report. The official State of South Dakota Investigator's Motor Vehicle Traffic Accident Report can be difficult to understand. This complicated, 2-page-long document contains many different symbols and abbreviations. Fortunately, you don't have to figure out what your accident report means on your own. We can help.

The guide below was created by the car accident attorneys at Northern Plains Justice, LLP. We have years of experience working with accident victims in South Dakota. We know what details to look for and what information matters most on such reports. That's why we have such a strong track record of success. We take the time to find the evidence needed to build strong legal cases.

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Even if your accident report seems straightforward, contact our Sioux Falls law firm to schedule a free evaluation. Accidents often turn out to be much more complicated than many people initially suspected. And our car accident attorneys can help you navigate every twist and turn that comes up after your crash. You didn’t do anything wrong. You deserve to be compensated for your accident.

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How to Read Your Accident Report pg. 4

Page 1

On the margins on the left and right side of both pages, there are numerous two-part boxes on each side. If you look closely, you'll notice there's a small number or letter above each set of boxes. That's because each pair of boxes contains codes for a variety of conditions, including "Character of Roadway" (Box 3), "Light Conditions" (Box 7), "Weather Conditions" (Box 8), "Vehicle Type/Body Style" (Box B) and many more. You can learn more about certain, especially important, boxes listed below.

This section is devoted to where your accident took place. Make sure the location is correct. If you disagree with the information provided here, it's important to speak up as soon as possible. We can help you deal directly with the police and clarify any errors. Remember, insurance companies can be sticklers for details. And any mistake can sometimes be used to reduce or deny an insurance claim.

In the line that begins "DL State," pay close attention to whether the investigating police officer checked any boxes in the "Violation" section. Any one of those could indicate that the driver who caused your accident did not have a valid driver's license. This could have a huge impact on the outcome of your case.

In the line that begins "Total Occupants," note what the police officer wrote in the section marked "Estimated Travel Speed." If that speed is higher than the "speed limit" indicated, you could have a legitimate speeding car accident case. South Dakota has some of the highest speed limits in the country. On many highways, the speed limit is now 80 mph.

If your accident was caused by a commercial truck driver, the information about the driver and the trucking company can be found here. Tracking down and dealing with trucking companies can be complicated. We know how to deal with trucking companies and can help you hold them accountable for any violations related to your accident.

Box 14 contains four spaces for the investigating police officer to indicate "Contributing Circumstances." Some of the codes for this section include "Crosswind" (1), "Slippery Surface" (3), "Ruts, Holes, Bumps in the Road" (6) and one of the more unusual contributing circumstances, "Phantom Vehicle in Road" (7). We can help you decipher these codes and understand what they mean in relation to your car accident.

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Page 2

There are several different codes the investigating officer can include here depending on what type of injury you or someone else sustained in your accident. The codes include 1 for "Fatal," 2 for "Incapacitating Injury," 3 for "Nonincapacitating Injury" and 4 for "Possible Injury." Make sure you completely agree with the officer's assessment of your injury or anyone else's. Otherwise, an insurance company may deny or reduce your claim.

If the other driver was intoxicated, you will find certain codes in these two boxes. If alcohol or drugs was a contributing factor, a number other than zero will be marked in Box A. Box B is reserved for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Test Results. Drunk driving accidents can be extremely complicated. We can help you hold the other driver accountable and move your case forward.

The investigating police officer normally draws a diagram of the exact location of vehicles involved in an accident. Make sure you completely agree with where the vehicles are positioned in the diagram. If you took photographs of your accident, compare your pictures to the diagram and see if they match. Insurance companies carefully look at such diagrams when determining who caused the accident.

Every word matters in the police officer's accident narrative. Even if the officer's narrative seems to indicate that the other driver caused your crash, an insurance investigator might see things differently. That's why it's critical to contact our law firm. We know what words can raise red flags, and we can make sure that your accident report accurately reflects exactly what happened. We're here to make sure your version of the accident becomes the official version.

Click here to download a printable version.

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Sioux Falls, SD 57108

Phone: 605-306-4100
Fax: 605-306-6278
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