How are Police Reports Used in Injury Cases?

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:

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.