Dana Adkins, Esq.
How to Request & Read a SC Police Incident Report
If you or a loved one were injured or killed in a South Carolina car accident, you may need to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Getting a police report can support your claim in a lawsuit against the responsible party. Police reports contain vital details that help your attorney prove the at-fault driver’s negligence. But, to get a police report, you have to call the police.
Must You (Should You) Call the Police After a Car Wreck? South Carolina law does not require all automobile accidents to be reported to the police. If no one was injured and no property was damaged in the crash, then you can certainly go about your day as if it didn't happen. It is, however, a serious crime not to report a crash if any person or property was harmed in the crash. If you fail to report a wreck in which minor injuries were caused to a person or property, you may face a misdemeanor. However, if the injuries are more serious, you could face felony charges. This is true even if you believed it was a minor wreck. It is true even if you think the injured person is faking or lying. It is also true if there was property damaged, other than to a vehicle, such as a fence or light post. It is even a crime not to report a crash if the other person involved told you that they were ok, but then later starts to feel the effects of the crash and you don't even know they were hurt. Some symptoms of whiplash, for example, can take weeks to fully show up. So, if there is any reasonable chance that someone could be injured in a crash that you have been involved in, including yourself, or that any property may have been damaged, you need to report the wreck to the police.
Even if you do not call the police, all automobile accidents must be reported to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SC DMV). If the police did not respond to the scene of the crash, you are required to complete a Form 309 and send it to the DMV yourself, either online or by mail within 15 days of the wreck. If you fail to make the report within 15 days and it turns out that someone (including yourself) was injured or that property was damaged in the wreck, then you may waive certain rights, such as:
The right to receive uninsured motorist benefits from your own automobile insurance.
The right to receive medical payment coverage from your own automobile insurance.
Your insurance company may terminate your automobile insurance.
Your ability to pursue a claim against the other driver may be limited.
Your driver's license may be revoked.
If the police responded to the scene of the collision: Before you leave, the responding officer will give you a FR-10 Insurance Verification Form. The FR-10 is a green form that a responding officer will provide to every driver involved in the accident. The one-page document is used to prove that those involved in an accident maintained the appropriate amount of insurance coverage on their vehicles. The FR-10 is NOT the full Traffic Collision Report. The purpose of this form is only to verify automobile insurance coverage.
The responding offer fills out portions of the FR-10. You are then required to give the form to your insurance carrier, who will complete the form and send it to the SC DMV within 15 days after the wreck. If you the form is not received by the SC DMV within 15 days of the wreck, then it may be assumed that you were uninsured at the time of the wreck, which could result in the suspension of your driver's license and vehicle registration. See, S.C. Code §56-5-1270.
After the investigation is complete, the responding officer will submit a TR-310 Traffic Collision Report Form to the SC DMV. The TR-310 is the responding officer's full report on the wreck and is much more detailed than the FR-10. Since January 1, 1970, this standard form has been used by all law enforcement agencies In South Carolina for investigating and reporting traffic collisions. Instructions and guidance on completing a TR-310 is provided in this law enforcement manual: https://scdps.sc.gov/sites/scdps/files/Documents/forms/TR-310%20Report%20Manual%20Revised%20May%202019.pdf.
The Traffic Collision Report contains when the accident happened, where it happened and the names and addresses of every driver, passenger, and vehicle owner involved in the wreck. It includes the responding officer’s assessment of who was at-fault, a description of the crash, and the factors that likely contributed to the wreck, including:
The date, location, and time the crash occurred.
The names, contact information, driver’s license numbers, and insurance company information for every person involved in the accident.
Property damage estimates, with diagrams of the location of the damage on each vehicle.
Information about drivers and passengers involved. This could include any injuries suffered, whether they were wearing seatbelts and other vital information.
The results of any alcohol or drug tests administered at the scene.
A description of the sequence of events, witness observations, and other information.
A description of the scene of the wreck.
Many people believe that what is in a SC Police Traffic Collision Report determines who is at fault for an Auto Accident and whether or not one party is liable for the other's injuries and property damage. That’s not necessarily true.
The Collision Report does contain the responding officer’s assessment of who was at-fault. However, it is a fallible opinion, which may be discredited. If the responding officer did find the other driver to be at fault, then it can help to settle your case. However, even if the responding officer determined that you were at-fault it is possible that there is an error and you were actually not at fault or that you were only partially at-fault. If you were injured in an automobile accident and don't believe it was entirely your fault, you may still have a valuable personal injury case. Whether you were found by the responding officer to be at-fault or not, it’s important to review the Traffic Collision Report as soon as possible to ensure it is accurate.
There are several ways to get a copy of your SC Traffic Collision Report (TR-310).
From the SC DMV Online at: https://www.scdmvonline.com/SCTRNS/Public/Transactions/Info.aspx. You will be required to pay a $6.00 fee with a debit or credit card, as well as enter your SC Driver's License Number and Social Security Number. If you do not have a SC Driver's License, you may alternatively be able to use a Customer Number found on your SC Vehicle Registration.
From the SC DMV in-person: Complete the Request for Collision Report Form FR-50 and return it to any SC DMV branch. You will be required to pay a $6.00 fee with cash, credit/debit card, check, or money order.
From the SC DMV by mail: Complete and mail the Request for Collision Report Form FR-50, along with a check or money order for $6.00 payable to the SC DMV to the address on the form. This is a two-page document because the SC DMV wants two (2) copies of the request. If you complete the first page electronically before printing, the same information will automatically populate on the second page. Your signature will not automatically duplicate on the second page, so you must sign both pages after printing
Request from the responding law enforcement agency: Each law enforcement agency has unique procedures for providing copies of accident reports, so you will need to contact the police department or sheriff’s office that completed your police report at the scene of the crash for their preferences.
How to Read a SC Police Traffic Collision Report
A Traffic Collision Report is broken down into multiple sections. Each section is designed to piece together what happened in an accident. Learning to put these pieces together takes a lot of training and practice. Below is an overview of the information contained on the form, and where to find it.
The top section of the page will include the date, time and location of the crash. The section underneath will list the names of the drivers or pedestrians involved, as well as contact information, driver’s license number, name of insurance company, and details such as sex, race, and age, as well aswhether the responding officer found them to be at-fault. The box also notes if drivers were speeding.
The bottom of the page has space for the officer to include an assessment of the property damage, and sections to write a narrative and draw a diagram about how the crash happened. This box will contain the location of the accident, including the direction of travel for each of the vehicles. At the very bottom of the page, you can find the name of the investigating officer, rank and badge number.
The top section of this page will list information about the people involved in the accident.
Along with their names and addresses, there is space to list date of birth, sex, race, where they were seated in the vehicle, whether they were wearing a seatbelt, whether they were injured, whether the air bag was deployed, whether they were ejected from the vehicle during the crash, their location after impact and whether they were transported to a hospital.
Underneath, there are sections for the officer to list the sequence of events that led to the collision, as well as more information about the vehicles involved, the drivers, and circumstances of the wreck. Each section is completed by filling in a corresponding code. These sections will include details that may reveal contributing factors, negligence, and punitive damages issues that may help support your personal injury claim, such as whether alcohol or drug tests were given and any results of those tests. The officer may note whether any driver disregarded traffic signs or signals, was distracted, was speeding, fatigued or asleep at the wheel, following too closely, made an improper turn, was driving aggressively, or driving on the wrong side of the road, among other factors. The officer may also indicate whether there were any vehicle defects, such as defective brakes, steering, tires, lights, signals or other defects, and whether any vehicle had an attachment, such as a trailer.
If a truck or bus was involved in the accident, the officer may include more details about the truck or bus, such as whether it was a flat bed, dump truck, cement mixer, garbage truck, auto transport truck or some other type of truck. The officer may also detail the trailer length and width and whether the truck was carrying hazardous materials. All of this information is of tremendous value in your personal injury lawsuit.
At the bottom of the page, the officer can list information about the road where the accident happened, including the type of road, the surface condition, whether there was an intersection, weather condition and light condition. There is also a place for the officer to list contributing factors to the crash, such as roadway obstruction. This information is reviewed by Attorney Dana Adkins to help determine if your automobile accident might also have been the result of a poorly maintained or designed roadway.
It will raise a red flag if the Traffic Collision Report indicates the shoulder of the roadway had a steep drop-off, uneven pavement, large and/ or numerous potholes, water pooling, missing or lacking guardrails, missing roadsigns, malfunctioning stoplights, or low visibility areas. These types of cases can be very complicated because a government agency is normally in charge of designing and maintaining roadways. There are legal limitations that apply to when a public entity can be held legally accountable for negligence, and special rules that must be followed when suing a government agency. However, it is entirely possible to win these cases! From 2005 through 2010 South Carolina paid more than $30 million to resolve claims against the Department of Transportation, primarily related to alleged road defects.
Attorney Dana Adkins has more than a decade of experience handling complex car accident cases. It would be our pleasure to talk to you about your situation. We happily meet with clients virtually or in-person at our office or even at your home. We proudly serve the entire state of South Carolina. Call or text us today!