08.21.17

How Much Weight Does a Police Report Carry In A Car Accident Lawsuit?

Posted in Vehicle Accidents at 3:41 pm by kevin

If you are in an automobile accident, it is generally recommended that you call law enforcement to the scene to fill out a police report. The police report is a statement prepared by the officer who arrives at the scene about the events of the accident.

What most people are surprised to find out is that police reports are typically not admissible if an automobile accident suit goes to trial. However, they are useful if you are involved in a personal injury suit. What you say to law enforcement concerning an accident can significantly affect your impending trial, if the case goes that far.

You can’t technically use a police report in a court of law to prove that someone injured you through their negligence. But a police report can help you or your Atlanta car accident attorney, to negotiate a settlement with the insurance provider and further your case to make them settle out of court. After an accident, it is always a good idea to obtain your own copy of the report by going to the police department where it is on file. The police report will often be available online as well.

 

How to use a police report to further your settlement negotiations

Although it’s inadmissible in court, a police report can be helpful should you have to negotiate to recover for your personal injuries in the litigation process. Before you begin your personal injury suit, you should collect all the pertinent information about your injuries including all medical records, the police report, and any other official documents about the case to use to draft a “demand letter.”

The demand letter is a written document that summarizes all the facts about the accident and injuries in full detail. It is also where the injured person demands to be compensated for their economic and non-economic damages.

The reason that the police report is important during the negotiation process is that it can provide proof that the other driver was deemed “at fault” and is therefore liable to pay for your injuries. Even though you can’t use it in court, it is an important document to use to try to settle the case before it escalates to trial, which is always a preferable method for both parties.

 

What can a police report do for your case?

The police report can help to strengthen your proof regarding the accident. It has all the necessary information that you will need like time, date, and any other witnesses that were available to provide an account. It will also include information about weather conditions or any other mitigating factors. The police report will also have contact information about any eyewitness accounts, so that if the case does proceed to trial, they can be called to testify about what they observed.

 

Why are police reports inadmissible in court?

Police reports are not admissible in court because they are considered “hearsay.” Hearsay is not admissible because it is:

  • Not a sworn statement
  • It is a statement that is made outside the confines of a courtroo
  • It is made by a person who doesn’t have eyewitness confirmation of the event
  • It is a statement made by a third party about another person’s actions or inactions

Although it’s filed by an officer of the law, a police report is considered hearsay because the officer was not there to witness the accident. They merely recorded what other people described of what they witnessed. The police officer did not have firsthand knowledge of the events, so they recorded the statements of those they questioned.

The statements that the police report holds are also not “sworn” statements. The people who were asked about the accident were not “sworn to tell the truth,” and therefore cannot be held liable if they did not.

So, although a police report might not help you during the trial phase of any personal injury suit resulting from an auto accident, it is an excellent tool for the negotiation process. Your personal injury lawyer can use the police report to establish who was at fault and to further their ability to reach a fair settlement. Never leave the scene of an accident without having a police report taken, even if it can’t be introduced at trial.

 

05.19.17

Why Are More Buses Not Revamping To Include Seat Belts?

Posted in Negligence, Vehicle Accidents at 3:33 pm by kevin

Over the past several decades, seat belt laws have expanded to cover all 50 states. Although it is left to each state to determine the specific laws, in general, if you are riding in the car with a child then they need to be restrained unless they are over the age of 16. The reason is that car accidents remain one of the biggest causes of childhood deaths and injuries in America.

There is no argument that seat belts save lives, so instilling laws for parents to do the right thing just makes sense. However, when it comes to other forms of transportation, like school buses, not many states have mandates about what type of restraints they must have or how children must be transported. In Texas, after several school bus accidents with huge consequences, lawmakers are considering making it mandatory to wear a seatbelt when you get on the big yellow bus to go to school.

It would only make sense that your child should be as protected in someone else’s vehicle as they should be in your car, so the lack of seat belts on many school buses – not just across Texas but across the United States – simply doesn’t make any sense.

A Texas law that was established over ten years ago stating that school buses must be equipped with shoulder seat belts has barely caught on. In fact, only a minority of the buses are up to the law a decade later. After a fatal bus crash in 2006, Ashley and Alicia’s Law was enacted, mandating that every new bus purchased by a school have the three-point seat belt.

With the help of a bus accident lawyer, a woman who lost her daughter to a school bus accident in September of 2015 is just one victim lobbying to not only enforce the rule for buses to have seat belts, but to make sure that they use them. Sheanine Chatman lost her daughter when the child’s bus went over the overpass and plunged 21 feet onto the road below.

Chatman was one of two children who was killed. Two others sustained severe injuries. The biggest contributor to the deaths and severity of injuries is that none of the children were wearing seat belts, according to investigators who were at the scene. Advocates have been pushing for seat belt use on school and transportation buses since the law was passed, but it seems like their pleas are falling on deaf ears. With no real enforcement or consequences for not following the rules, there isn’t much incentive to take the extra initiative to ensure that children are following the rules.

Sylvia Garcia, a Democratic state senator, has presented a bill that would require each child to have a three-point seat belt on every school bus that operates in the state. A three-point belt has not just the lap belt, which does very little to secure a child when in a crash, but also has a shoulder belt – the same shoulder belt that is required in any other moving vehicle.

Garcia insists that everyone who gets behind the wheel with their child understands the gravity of what being safe in a car entails for their kid, but then they say goodbye at the bus doors and have no proof that their children are being taken care of safely.

Texas is one of the “click it or ticket” states and puts a large portion of their transportation budget into seat belt campaigns and enforcement at the private motorist level. However, they need to do a better job on buses, where there can be up to 100 children being transported at one time.

Even when it is most critical that kids be restrained, no one seems to be putting much effort into enforcement. Although over $10 million was earmarked to purchase new school buses that comply with the law, nearly 99% of the schools across Texas have not done so.

Many educators maintain that it might be because the money allocated only relates to purchasing new school buses, instead of just retrofitting school buses that are fairly new and can last for decades. According to experts, it only costs about $8,000-10,000 to retrofit an old bus, but since the state doesn’t include that in their allocation, school districts simply don’t have the money in the budget to comply.

To date, an average of six children a year die in school bus crashes. That is six too many. A new push needs to be focused on converting old buses and enforcing seat belt laws, so that another Chatman accident never happens again. It is now in the hands of the Texas government to figure out the best way to gain compliance, but they must do so.

 

 

05.02.17

Could Helmet Laws For Motor Vehicles Be A Thing Of The Past In Nebraska?

Posted in Vehicle Accidents at 10:48 am by kevin

In the land of the free, there are actually very few freedoms that Americans are afforded. When it comes to the rules of the road, under the guise of public protection people have very limited control over their behaviors. Things like mandatory seatbelt laws and helmet laws for motorcyclists have been debated for decades, especially between motor vehicle accident attorney Queens that deal with similar cases far too often. Finally having its day in court, the Lowe’s motorcycle helmet bill is still being debated.

The Nebraska state senator assembly is in a debate about repealing the law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and whether that should be up to the individual. After decades of attempting to rid the state of the bill, its opponents might actually be successful. Although attempts have been unsuccessful for nearly two decades, the tide might be turning in favor of those who don’t want to wear helmets.

With the election of new members of the Senate comprising about one-third of those voting, this might be the year for big changes. Due to the term limits imposed during 2016, getting some new blood might actually help opponents against wearing helmets, get what they want – a repeal of the law. The law would also make it unlawful for anyone under the age of 6 years old to ride on a motorcycle as a passenger.

The argument is similar to those for seatbelts. When you get behind the wheel of either a motorcycle or a car, you are aware of the risks. It should be your right to have the freedom to decide for yourself what you want to do. Since an accident where you aren’t wearing a helmet may only affect you, the decision should be in your hands. Wearing a helmet doesn’t prevent accidents; therefore, the choice to wear one shouldn’t be guided by the state.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as many as forty percent of all motorcyclists who were killed in fatal crashes in 2015 didn’t have a helmet on. Statistics clearly show that not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle exponentially increases your chances of dying.

Proponents insist that Nebraska should avoid making the same mistake as Louisiana. Louisiana repealed the helmet law in 1999, but reinstated it due to the significant and severe increase in brain injuries and deaths. Those who want to maintain the helmet laws insist that it is a public health issue. Brain injuries cost the state millions, and those who sustain injuries are less likely to have motorcycle insurance, which costs everyone.

They also insist that there are times when wearing a helmet can impede a motorcyclist’s ability to see traffic and may actually lead to motorcycle accidents. Even if wearing a helmet reduces chronic brain injuries, the accidents might never happen to begin with if the motorcyclist wasn’t inhibited by the bulkiness and blind spots that some can experience while wearing a helmet.

Those who want to repeal the helmet law are bringing up issues like an increase in tourism.  They believe that being helmet-free will increase tourist revenue for the state. Currently, many who attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally located in South Dakota intentionally avoid Nebraska so that they don’t have to put a helmet on and “ruin the ride.” The additional money made in tourism, however, will most likely not pay for the increase in motorcycle accidents and their consequences on society and the state’s budget.

With a whole new Senate, conditions are ripe for change in Nebraska, but change doesn’t always come in the form of something good. Although wearing a helmet can be less of a hassle, there is no doubt that helmets can save motorcyclists from death and serious brain injuries. Whether or not freedom will reign in Nebraska remains to be seen.

A “nanny” state might save some people from themselves, but that isn’t what America was founded on. Fortunately, America was created as a society where people have free choice, even if those choices aren’t good ones. When someone decides not to wear a helmet, that doesn’t increase the likelihood that they will get into an accident. It may only increase the likelihood that they won’t die or sustain a more severe brain injury than if they didn’t wear one. Either way it should be their decision to choose.