Car accidents — Investigation — Getting the police report
If the police came to the scene of the car accident then they filled out some sort of accident report. Your personal injury lawyer will obtain a copy of this report as part of his or her investigation of your lawsuit.
The police report can be extremely important to your lawsuit. Police reports can and often do contain errors. Nevertheless, jurors tend to regard the investigating police officer and the accident report created at the time of the accident as the only truthful and accurate document prepared by a truly impartial and disinterested witness.
At trial, the police officer’s findings usually are toned down by the rules of evidence, but the police officer is still a pivotal witness.
Even where the police officer adds little to the case, and may only serve to confirm the location, time and date of the car accident, the police officer is a good lead witness, especially in uniform, and can set the stage for the case.
Contents of the police report
The specific format of police car accident reports varies from place to place. However, police car accident reports generally contain the following items:
- The identity of the owners and drivers of the cars.
- The parties’ insurance carriers.
- The accident location.
- A description of the road and weather conditions.
- A description of damage to each vehicle.
- The names and addresses of any witnesses.
- A record of injuries and complaints.
- A description of the accident.
- A diagram of the accident.
- The officer’s opinion as to the following matters:
- The cause of the car accident.
- Any apparent contributing factors.
- The pre-accident actions of the drivers.
- Whether or not safety devices such as seatbelts were used.
- Whether or not a summons was issued.
- The condition of the drivers, including alcohol or drug use.