How Do Police Establish Fault in a Car Accident?
A police report isn’t absolutely necessary to prove fault in a car accident, but it 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 and hold negligent drivers responsible.
In the article below, we will examine how a police report can establish fault after a car accident.
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- A police report can help prove fault in a car accident, but it is not necessary.
- Police reports contain details of the accident scene, including witness statements and the officer’s conclusions about how the accident occurred.
- Insurance companies and courts can use this information to determine fault. However, the report is not the deciding factor in determining liability in an injury case.
- If the report assigns fault to you, Georgia’s comparative fault laws may come into play.
A police report is a written document usually generated by the responding law enforcement officer at the crash scene. The police report often contains:
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- The time of day the accident occurred
- If a traffic law was broken
- Other details of the crash and the people/vehicles/property involved
- Witness statements
- Statements from drivers and passengers
- A diagram of the accident (location, path of vehicles, point of collision)
- The officer’s findings or conclusions as to how or why the accident might have happened.
Determining fault after a car accident can heavily rely upon the information 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 severe injury and 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 useful as leverage in negotiations or lead a court to find you in 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 believe 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?
An officer follows a standard procedure when 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.
The report is a massive 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?
Georgia has laws that define comparative fault, which is when an accident evaluation finds that both drivers share the cause of the accident.
You could share in the blame if you have been negligent or your vehicle wasn’t maintained properly. There are four types of negligence in car accident cases:
- Gross negligence
- Comparative negligence
- Contributory negligence
- Vicarious negligence
For example, you could be 40 percent at fault while the other driver is 60 percent at fault. If you find yourself in this predicament, your case may not end in your favor, as courts trust the police reflexively. However, hiring an accident attorney experienced in handling these situations can enormously 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 information the officer received and from whom. An experienced attorney can also challenge the officer’s training against their judgments in the report.
A perfect example of this would be the skid mark analysis. If the police accident report says there were 10 feet of skid marks, it is safe to say that the driver did not start breaking until 10 feet before the impact. Those exact 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 activity 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 accident victims say to the police can make it into the report and be used 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 a car 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 is to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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