Police officers are called to accident scenes every day. Since they’re as human, they make mistakes involving judgment and facts just like the rest of us. What happens when a police officer’s accident report says that you were at fault when you clearly weren’t? Does that end a personal injury claim before it even gets started?
What the Report Consists Of
Police reports don’t establish fault in a personal injury case. Most accident reports simply reflect the names of the parties and any witnesses, their contact and insurance information, driver’s license information, whether they were injured, the vehicles they were driving and the location of the damage to the vehicles. A brief narrative report consisting of just a few sentences ordinarily follows, but it’s not transcribed word for word. The report might contain opinions or observations that could be open to interpretation. There might even be a drawing of the accident scene and where the vehicles were before impact, after impact and after they came to rest. That drawing won’t be to scale.
Nearly All Police Reports are Inadmissible Into Evidence
Both the injured claimant’s attorney and the opposing insurance company are going to rely on the contents of a police accident report, but it’s highly unlikely that it be received into evidence in a personal injury trial. That’s because police accident reports are hearsay unless the police officer who made the report was an eyewitness to the accident. If a police officer’s recollection of his or her accident investigation is exhausted at trial, he or she might be permitted to testify from their accident report, but it’s still unlikely that the report will go back to the jury room during deliberations.
Admissions of Fault
If a person admits fault for an accident, that admission is ordinarily memorialized in the police report. That statement can be used against the person as an exception to the hearsay rule, but the accident report still isn’t going to go back to the jury room.
Clear Facts vs. Interpretation
In the Spokane area, most people obtain a copy of their Spokane police accident report or Washington State Patrol accident report a few days after an accident. Sometimes they notice mistakes, but they don’t realize that they can ask for the report to be changed. If it’s a clear error, the investigating officer just might acknowledge his or her mistake and change the report. For example, if the accident reports says that your car is red, and it’s actually white, the officer might be persuaded to change the report if he or she sees your car. On the other hand, if an entry in the report is open to interpretation, and you disagree with the officer’s interpretation, he or she probably won’t amend the report. That’s what cross examination by a skilled accident attorney is for.
Contact a Spokane Car Accident Lawyer
A flawed police report should never interfere with your right to seek compensation for your injuries. Rather than speaking with the opposing insurance company, you’ll want to speak with our Spokane Car Accident Lawyers right away after any accident. Bring your accident report, and we’ll evaluate it. There’s no charge for an initial consultation with an experienced lawyer from our office. We’ll listen to you carefully and answer your questions. Then we’ll advise you of all of your legal options. If we enter into a retainer agreement, we won’t even charge any legal fees unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. Always feel free to contact us with your questions.