How to Read Your New York Car Accident Report
Insights you can trust from an experienced car accident attorney
When you’re involved in a car accident in New York, one of the first things you need to do is call the police and have them investigate. The investigating officer’s accident report (Form MV-104A) is a key piece of evidence in your claim. Insurance companies use this report as part of their determination of fault. Moreover, if we later need the investigating officer to testify in a deposition or at trial (which may be years after the accident), they will most likely read their testimony from the report.
You need to know how to get your accident report, how to read it, and how to set the record straight if it’s incorrect. That’s why Keogh Crispi, P.C. put together this guide to reading the New York police accident report. If you need any help obtaining or reading your report, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.
How to obtain your police accident report
The New York Department of Motor Vehicles keeps all accident reports on file for four years from the date of the accident. In order to obtain your report electronically from the DMV:
- Do a “Free” limited search, using “List Reports on File by Date,” to search for your report using the date and county where the accident occurred. You will see a list that includes the plate numbers of the vehicles involved in each accident in that county on that day.
- If you see your accident listed, you can search for your individual report using the plate number of any vehicle involved in the crash, the driver’s license number of a person involved in the crash, or the 8-digit DMV accident case number. There is a $7 search fee. Note that the fee will be charged even if you enter the wrong information, so take the time to double-check before you hit the Search button.
- Once you find your report, you can purchase a copy using the same information you used for the search. There is a $15 fee for each report.
Note that accident reports are generally not available immediately after the accident. Electronically filed reports in New York City will take at least 14 days to enter the DMV system, and paper police reports from elsewhere in New York will take at least 30 days.
If you haven’t been able to obtain your accident report yet when you come to your free consultation, don’t worry. We can handle the request for the report and any other necessary documentation on your behalf.
How to read the New York Police Accident Report (Form MV-104A)
Click here to download a printable PDF of How to Read Your New York Car Accident Report.
In the first section, you’ll find an overview of the accident: date, time, location, number of vehicles, and number of people injured or killed.
On the left and right, information is listed for the vehicle(s) involved in the accident. Note that Vehicle 1 is always a motor vehicle, while the Vehicle 2 section can be used for a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian.
Each vehicle section starts with the name and contact information of the operator.
The owner’s name and address are listed next (this can be left blank if the “vehicle” is a pedestrian).
The next section documents any tickets and traffic law violations – this can help to establish liability but note that not every type of negligence is a violation of a specific traffic law.
The vehicle damage codes indicate where each vehicle was struck and where the most damage was done. This information can also affect liability for injuries – for instance, if there was heavy damage to the passenger side, there are likely also substantial injuries to someone seated on that side.
The officer circles or draws a diagram showing how the accident happened. We look at this section to anticipate whether liability, damages, or both are likely to be contested.
The officer notes where the accident occurred and then writes any additional notes in the accident description section. Read through this carefully, as it’s often used for information that doesn’t fit elsewhere in the report.
The codes used in the final section indicate where each person involved in the accident was seated, whether safety equipment was used, and how severe their injuries were. Note that not all injuries are immediately obvious, so this isn’t the final word.