How are Police Reports Used in Injury Cases?
Posted in Lawsuit on June 12, 2017
Whenever you are involved in a car vehicle accident, you are required by law to report it; so, if you are physically able to do so, you should first make sure that everyone in the crash is okay, and then call the police and report the accident. They will usually dispatch an officer to the scene, who will make out a report. You will want to get the name, badge number, and agency the officer is with, along with the report number and instructions for obtaining a copy of the report.
A police report is not, under most circumstances, admissible as evidence in court, unless the officer observed the accident first hand; and it usually won’t have much to say about what the officer believed to be the cause. The reason that it is not admissible is that unless the officer was actually present, anything that anyone else said that appears in the report would be considered “hearsay,” a violation of the rules of evidence. Nevertheless, it could turn out to be important to your case. It can be very useful as a tool when your attorney is investigating the crash and dealing with the defendant’s insurance company.
Information on the Report May Support Settlement Negotiations
If the information on the police report overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the other driver was at fault for the accident (for example if the other car collided with yours from the rear), the insurer will probably be more amenable to offering a fair settlement, once you have demonstrated your damages, rather than risking a loss after an expensive trial. The police report will provide basic information that may be important in preparing your case for settlement or trial:
- It will confirm that the crash took place, its time and location, the names and contact information of the parties involved (owners, drivers, passengers), along with the make and model, plate number, and insurance information for each vehicle, and the names and contact information for any witnesses.
- It will state if there were any injuries, if anyone was taken from the scene by ambulance, and if so, where.
- It will usually contain a rough drawing of the accident, indicating points of impact, any damage to the vehicles, skid marks, debris in the area, and damage to structures outside of the vehicles.
- It will probably indicate weather, visibility, and road conditions.
- It could contain a statement made by any of the parties to the accident as to how it happened. It is usually in your best interest to offer only the most basic information, and to avoid commenting on your physical condition, other than to indicate that you are in pain or feel shaken up and need an ambulance, if that is the case.
- It will indicate whether any driver was ticketed for a traffic violation or tested for DUI.
If the Police Fail to Show Up
If the police don’t arrive at the scene in a reasonable amount of time, you should make notes of the information itemized above, and take some pictures of the crash, damage to each vehicle, and geographic markers and street signs to identify the location, which you can then include when you go to the station and file the report yourself.
Get Medical Care and Contact a Lawyer
Assuming an officer did make a report and gave you the okay to leave, you should immediately obtain medical treatment at a nearby hospital emergency room, urgent care center, or your own physician’s office. Engage the services of an experienced personal injury attorney.
You should be able to obtain a copy of the police report within several days. Read it carefully. If you notice an error in some basic fact—the date and time, for example─ask to amend it. The reporting agency may allow you to add your statement; but don’t try to make an elaborate statement about who was at fault. That remains to be proven following a thorough examination of the facts of the crash.
Provide your lawyer with a copy of the police report, which you can usually obtain for a minimal copying fee. It will provide a good jumping-off point for his/her investigation and subsequent negotiations in your behalf.