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Texas Crash Report KABCO Injury Ratings

Our law firm can help you understand your accident report

An important factor in determining the size of a car accident settlement in Texas is the official police crash report. Among other information, the police report contains a KABCO injury rating, which represents the severity of injuries observed by the responding police officer.

However, officers are not medical experts. And sometimes they misjudge the type and severity of injuries. This can create a major problem for injured crash victims. Insurance companies may use the underestimated KABCO severity to deny or reduce a car accident settlement.

A Texas car accident victim can make a stronger claim for maximum settlement compensation when they obtain a copy of their crash report, read it through, and correct any mistakes or inaccuracies in the document. An experienced Houston car accident lawyer can help set the record straight. Skilled attorneys understand how crash report errors are fixed and can guide injured victims through the legal process.

What is the KABCO injury scale?

The KABCO injury rating system is a widely used system for police to categorize each involved person’s injuries in crash reports using one of six codes. (Note that while KABCO is the term used nationally, on Texas accident reports, some of the codes used are slightly different, as explained below.) Each letter in the acronym KABCO stands for a different level of injury:

  • K – Killed. This code should be entered if the victim is pronounced dead at the scene or dies of their injuries away from the scene (e.g., at the hospital) within 30 days of the wreck.
  • A – Incapacitated. This is a significant injury that typically requires the victim to be carried or otherwise helped from the scene. Examples of “A” level injuries include severe head trauma or skull fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis, severe internal organ damage or organ failure, major injuries to the torso (such as a crushed chest), multiple fractures or compound fractures, loss of limbs, and severe burns or disfigurement.
  • B – Non-incapacitating. This category includes mild to moderate fractures, sprains and strains, soft tissue injuries, lacerations, concussions, whiplash injuries, first- or second-degree burns, and other injuries that are visible or directly observable but do not stop the victim from walking away from the scene without help.
  • C – Possible injury. If a victim has no visible signs of injury that the investigating officer can observe, but claims to be injured, complains of pain or other symptoms, or shows behavioral signs of injury such as walking with a limp, this code should be used.
  • O – No injury. This is used for a person involved in a crash who does not have an A, B or C injury. Note that while the NHTSA uses “O” to indicate no injury, Texas car accident reports use “N” instead.
  • U – Unknown. This code is used if the investigating officer is unable to determine whether an injury exists. For instance, the driver of a hit-and-run vehicle is indicated with a “U” by default. Note that while the NHTSA uses “U” to indicate an unknown injury, Texas car accident reports use “99” instead.

In cases where a person has multiple injuries of varying degrees of severity, the most severe applicable code is used.

The limitations of the KABCO scale

It’s important to remember that KABCO is based on preliminary observations rather than comprehensive medical examinations and may not accurately reflect the true extent of harm suffered by a car accident victim. In fact, one estimate says police may get injury severity wrong in up to 70% of crash reports. A Texas health services study found that “[KABCO] is weakly correlated to hospital-assigned injury severity metrics.” Researchers have said KABCO limitations include:

  • Subjective, determined by a non-medical person.
  • The chance that a severe internal injury is correctly classified is very low.
  • Categories are limited and developed based on the threat to life and survivability, not only incapacitation.

According to an international study, factors that may significantly contribute to police officers overestimating or underestimating injury severity include gender, vehicle type, and the presence of alcohol. Lighting conditions also affected underestimation, researchers said.

In short, police crash reports are not the final word on injury severity.

What can I do if the KABCO injury score on my Texas crash report is wrong?

As soon as it is available, injured accident victims should obtain a copy of their official Texas car accident report. Copies of the report can be ordered online from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Highway Patrol, or the Houston Police Department or other local police department that responded to the accident.

Crash victims should read through the report, make sure they understand it, and note any errors in the document. If you find an error, or you simply aren’t sure what the report says, contact a lawyer right away.

Some of the ways an attorney may be able to help you set the record straight include:

  • Contact the police department to speak with the officer who completed the report and request a change.
  • Investigate and collect supporting documentation like photographs, videos, medical records, or witness statements to prove a correction is necessary.
  • Work with medical professionals to obtain medical records and opinions that reflect the true extent of the injuries.

Don’t wait to fix Texas crash report mistakes

Typically, when factual errors in the report are evident and supported by documentation, an officer may agree to amend the report or clarify the information. Other times – especially when dealing with disputed information – an officer may deny the request. For example, an officer might not recall being informed about an injured victim's pain and refuse to add this important detail to their report.

Regardless of whether you’re able to get the police report changed, remember that it is only one piece of evidence in your case. The police investigation is focused on public safety and whether traffic laws were violated, not on whether you should be fully compensated for your injuries. You need an attorney on your side who can conduct an independent investigation focused on protecting your legal rights.

Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law has helped numerous accident victims in the Houston area and throughout Texas seek the compensation they deserve. If you were injured in a car accident, contact us for a free evaluation. We can listen to the details of your accident, answer your questions, and help you figure out what to do next.

Click here to download a printable version of this article, "The KABCO System in Police Crash Reports in Texas."

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