Car Accidents: What if the Police Report is Wrong?
Whether or not you are held financially liable for a car accident can heavily relies upon the information in a police report. An insurance adjuster or court will review all of the available evidence.
The details in a police report can be persuasive if not dispositive, as the information is viewed as being objective and trustworthy.
Car accidents usually result in two types of accident reports that detail the accident scene. If the police respond to the accident (usually they don’t respond to non-injury car accidents) they will create an official police report, and of course the parties involved may create their own report.
Police officers respond to car accidents when:
- The accident is blocking traffic
- Accident victims are injured
- Drivers appear to be intoxicated
- Parties involved become unruly
What if you believe that the police report is wrong?
Is there anything that you can do to change or correct the information?
We cover these questions and more below.
How are Police Reports Used?
While police reports are not generally admissible in courts, everyone involved in a car accident will review it and give great weight to what it says.
The insurance adjuster may base his or her decision on what the police report says, thus, it may be pivotal when it comes time to negotiate a settlement.
In other words, if the report is clear about who was at fault, that person will likely have an uphill battle trying to convince insurance company, otherwise. However, this does not mean that a police report cannot be challenged.
Challenging a Police Report
Police reports have been known to contain errors or omissions. When this occurs, a party involved in the incident can request that the police report be amended or supplemented. Disputing a police report is easy, but keep in mind, a police officer will only change the report if provided with strong, conclusive evidence that information in the report is wrong.
If the error in the police report is a factual error then the police officer can easily fix the mistake. For example, if your car is red and the police officer wrote that it is blue, simply show the police officer proof and he or she will fix the error.
However, if a party would like the police officer to change a detail in the report that is open to interpretation, then it may be more difficult to get the officer to agree to change the report. For instance, if the officer concludes that one person is at fault, but there is conflicting evidence, the police officer may not be willing to change his or her opinion as to fault.
In some cases, a party may disagree with a witness statement. If the police officer wrote down a witness report verbatim, he or she is not likely to change the police report simply because there are conflicting witness statements.
In cases, where the police officer declines to amend the police report, the party that disagrees with the report can record his or her own account of what happened and ask the police officer to attach it to the report.
It is ultimately up to the officer as to whether or not he or she will follow through with such request.
While a police officer may decide not to amend the report, given the nature or details of the accident, the parties involved in the accident should make an effort to make sure that they agree with what is in the report.
While all evidence will be evaluated by the trier of fact, or the person responsible for determining facts in a case, the police report can determine whether or not someone will be subject to criminal or civil liability. Subsequently, it can impact the amount of a settlement or judgment.
Should police officers be permitted to include conclusions of fault in a police report? Isn’t it better for the officer to only include facts and witness statements?
Assessing The Car Accident Scene
Typical Information Police Gather Includes:
- Date, time and location of the accident
- Description of injuries to passengers and drivers
- Personal info and statements from drivers, witnesses and passengers
- Weather and road conditions at time of accident
- Details about the cars involved like year, make, model, etc.
- Officer’s diagram of the accident scene
- Officer’s written details and causes of the accident
- Type and extent of property damage to the vehicles
- Contributing factors such as broken brake lights, turn signals, speeding, etc.
You always want to know “what to do after a car accident” so read more from our research guide.
Next steps at the accident scene:
- It is common for the police to take photographs of the accident scene and any damage to the cars involved. If alcohol or drugs appear to be involved then the police will conduct field sobriety tests and make arrests for DUI when necessary.
- Depending on what condition the vehicles are in, the police will call a towing company to have the cars removed from the roadway. Once the accident scene is safe and secure the police officers might go to the hospital to follow up with the drivers or passengers that suffered more serious injuries.
- Once the police have gathered all the information (that they find necessary to write the police report), the officers will start to create the official accident report.
Typically 3 to 5 days after the accident, the official police report should be available.