5 Things You Need to Know About Police Reports
- Information police gather at the scene may include:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- Personal statements and personal information from the drivers, witnesses, and passengers
- Descriptions of vehicles involved, including the make, model, and year
- Description of the resulting injuries
The officer may also include:
- A written statement by the officer outlining the accident
- A drawn diagram of the accident scene
- A description of the at-fault party
- Weather and road conditions at the accident time
- The extent of damage to the vehicles and property
- Other contributing factors such as non-working brakes, intoxication, speeding, etc.
- Citations or arrests may be made in cases where there are law violations
- It’s Not Admissible In Court
If your accident case goes to trial, police reports on their own are generally considered inadmissible in court. This is basically because of hearsay rules, or the court not wanting to admit “he said, she said” statements into the case. Police officers aren’t perfect. During his or her investigation, a claims adjuster might even uncover something that the officer initially missed. There are some instances when the police report can be admitted to the case despite the hearsay rules. Though the report isn’t admissible in court, you can obtain a copy for free from the police at any time.
- “At-Fault” Doesn’t Mean Guilt In Court
Although you may be listed as the “at-fault” party on a police report, as a top attorney like Wayne Cohen might explain, this does not necessarily mean that you will be found guilty in court. As mentioned, the report is not admissible as evidence in a trial. Whether or not you are held liable will be based on the evidence presented to the court.
- Sometimes You Must Create Your Own
Police officers are typically dispatched to accident scenes under one of four conditions:
- There are injured participants or bystanders
- The accident is causing a traffic blockage
- The accident participants are fighting or being otherwise disruptive
- One or more of the drivers is intoxicated
If none of the above conditions apply, you will likely be left to create your own report of the accident. Your report may help to prove that the other party was responsible for the accident and you deserve compensation.
When creating the report, write a short account of the accident and what lead up to it. Include the names and contact information of all parties involved, and also that of any witnesses. Also, collect the other driver’s insurance information. It may also help to draw a diagram of the scene.
One copy of the report should go to the other party’s claims adjuster. You won’t get your claim paid otherwise, since they need proof that the other party was negligent. Although it may be helpful, your report alone probably will not be enough to prove that your claim is valid. However, since the other party will give an account of their own, it’s important to add your account as well.
- Police won’t always assign fault
There are times where the responding officer won’t assign blame to either party. Instead, he or she may list other contributing factors, such as weather or bad road conditions. However, even if no fault is assigned, there’s a chance you can still convince the adjuster that their insured party caused the accident. You’ll need to submit evidence that contradicts or clarifies the officer’s statement.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their insight into workers compensation practice.