Learn How Police Reports Establish Fault and Affect Compensation For Car Accidents
A police report isn’t absolutely necessary to prove fault in a car accident, but it definitely makes it easier. They provide helpful evidence that can prove fault since they are an official account of what happened.
Police reports include the responding officer’s statement of how the accident occurred and if a driver was issued a ticket at the scene. Insurance companies can use these details to determine fault.
In the article below, we will examine how a police report can establish fault after a car accident.
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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 a police report will be generated.
If the other driver is at fault for your injuries, the traffic collision report can be handy as leverage in negotiations or lead a court to find in your favor.
On the other hand, if you are at fault, the report will set the standards for your accident liability and help distinguish the damage’s extent.
But what if the police report is inaccurate or doesn’t match what you believed happened? Can you have the information altered or amended?
That will depend on the information you want to be changed or added.
How is a Police Report Executed?
There is a 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.
If 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 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 about the cause of the crash.
How Can A Police Report Sway Your Personal Injury Claim?
While a police officer’s presumptions about 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 any personal injury lawsuit.
Obviously, the report is a huge advantage if the officer states the other driver caused the accident putting you on the right side of any fault-finding.
What If the Police Report Assigns Fault To 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 trust the police reflexively.
However, hiring a personal injury attorney 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 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.
If you have 10 feet of skid marks, it is safe to say that the driver did not start breaking until 10 feet before the impact. Those same measurements can also determine the person’s speed.
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 documentation of knowledge or training before this evidence can be admissible.
You can apply the same guidelines to other special measurements and conjectures.
Be Careful of What You Say
Anything you say to the police can make it into the report and be held against you later in the insurance claim or lawsuit process. Do not admit fault to the other driver, watch what information you relay to the police, and be aware of what you sign.
When you are involved in an automotive collision and the police show up, any police report can damage your case, so be aware of what you say. You cannot amend your initial remarks in the court proceedings.
The best way to protect yourself and your rights are to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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