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.