Determining liability after a car accident can heavily rely upon the information given in the police report.
After being involved in an automotive wreck, a police officer may or may not come to the scene. In wrecks involving serious injury and/or property damage, it’s safe to say an officer will report to the scene, and that a police report will be generated.
If the other driver is at fault for your injuries, the police report can be very useful as leverage in negotiations or in leading a court to find in your favor.
On the other hand, if you are at fault, the report will set the standards for your liability and help distinguish the extent of the damage.
But what if the police report is inaccurate or doesn’t match with what you believed happened? Can you have the information altered or amended? That usually depends on the information you would like changed or added on.
How a Police Report is Executed?
There is standard procedure an officer follows when first arriving at a scene. The police's priority is to see if medical attention is needed if so the officer will call it in. In the case, no one is injured the officer’s first job is to get the cars out of traffic.
The officer will also:
- Take pictures of the accident scene and of damage to the vehicles
- Measure skid marks
- Collect statements from any witnesses involved
Proceeding forward the officer will prepare a detailed report explaining how the accident had happened. The report will consist of testimony from the driver and any witnesses, the physical evidence at the scene, the officer's experience in investigating accidents, any special training the officer has, and most likely the officer’s opinion as to the cause of the crash.
How Can A Police Report Sway Your Personal Injury Claim?
While a police officer’s presumptions as to who caused the collision may result in a ticket for the at-fault driver, the report is not the deciding factor in determining liability in an injury case. However, the report will profoundly influence settlement negotiations with an insurance company, and in any personal injury lawsuit. Obviously, the report is a huge advantage when the officer states the other driver caused the accident putting you on the right side of any fault finding.
But what if the report points the finger smack-dab at you?
The other driver’s insurance company may feel they now have the upper hand and coerce you into quickly settling on a dollar amount of their choosing. If you find yourself in this predicament, your case may not end in your favor, as courts tend to reflexively trust the police.
However, hiring a personal injury attorney that is experienced in handling these situations can strongly help your case.
An attorney can ask questions such as:
- Was the officer relying on a spectator who said the light was red when the witness may not have been in the position to see the traffic signal?
- Does the report say that you were traveling 50 mph in a 35 mph zone just because the other driver said so, even though you know that is not true?
It’s wise to ask what sort of information the officer received and from whom.
An experienced attorney can also challenge the officer's training against his or her judgments in the report. A perfect example of this would be the skid mark analysis.
While 10 feet of skid marks measuring to the point of impact probably makes it safe to say that the driver did not start breaking until 10 feet before the point of impact, but the same cannot be concluded from measuring the vehicle's speed from the length of the skid marks.
It is feasible to do this with some precision, but it requires specialized training that most police departments don't include within their training process.
Since an individual would need special training or specific knowledge to make these inferences accurately, a court requires a showing of such knowledge or training before this kind of determination can be admissible. The same guidelines can be applied to other special measurements and conjectures.
Be Careful What You Say
Anything you say to the police can make it into the report, and probably will, and can be held against you later in the insurance claim or lawsuit process. As much as you should not admit fault to the other driver, you must watch what information is relayed to the police and what you sign.
When you are involved in an Automotive Collision and the police show up, any police report that is constructed can damage your case in such a way it cannot be restored later in the court proceedings. The best way to protect yourself and your rights may be to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you were in a vehicle crash, The Brown Firm has the best legal representation for your accident injury case.
Our Car Accident Lawyers have both the medical and legal expertise to efficiently protect your rights and gain the compensation you deserve after suffering injuries. We specialize in car accident injuries and can help you today, Click Below for a Free Consultation.