After being in a car wreck, a person is often injured and in shock. In the middle of this unexpected turmoil and pain, he or she may forget to call 911.
That’s a serious mistake. You need a police report. If you can’t identity that driver or have an officer testify in court that he caused the car accident, good luck collecting compensation for your damages.
While you are waiting for the police to arrive, make sure all drivers give you identifying information. Write down or photograph driver’s licenses and insurance cards and take photos of vehicles showing property damage, license plates, the scene with the position of vehicles (if not moved yet) and injuries. And don’t forget to get the names, emails and phone numbers, and observations from witnesses.
Importance of police report
The report contains a wealth of useful information that a personal injury lawyer needs to prove liability and initial damages. The report will have the date, time, location, road, speed limit, vehicles, drivers, licenses, liability insurance, property damage, injuries and severity codes, alcohol and drug use, ambulances, hospitals, and other crucial facts.
Key observations including a diagram showing the position of vehicles, traffic control devices are included. Potential problems like obstructions to view, weather issues, and vehicle defects will be noted. Admissions of fault and excuses by drivers and the names and phone numbers of eyewitnesses are written down.
For example, I am about to file a lawsuit against a young man who was speeding and crashed his sporty car into my client’s SUV, causing him to flip over multiple times and severely injure him. The police report also notes that the defendant driver claimed the reason for him crashing was that he was “tired” — at 4:30 in the afternoon. Who on a jury is going to believe that? The police officer found the kid was speeding.
The report lists which driver the officer believes was at fault and includes traffic citations and codes for traffic laws that were broken. Here’s the list of these details and what the fault codes mean.
After we are hired, my staff immediately buys the report and goes to work. An assistant drove to Hurst to pick one up today. We highlight key details and investigate troublesome findings. If the report has errors, we ask the officer to correct them. We try to locate and interview drivers, passengers, and witnesses. In “he said, she said” cases, these recordings can be decisive.
If the other driver failed to stop at a red light or stop sign, we try to get a statement from him. We also do a complete internet search of his background including prior crashes and criminal history, including DWIs. We look at his assets and try to learn how much insurance coverage he purchased and also review your auto policy with you to see if additional benefits are available. We can attempt to subpoena the other driver’s phone records to determine if he was texting or ask an expert to analyze any available video footage.
Police report as a tool in settlement negotiations
We will either negotiate a good settlement or file a lawsuit. In either case, the insurance company will be swayed by the information in the report. If the officer believes that its insured driver was at fault, the insurance company adjuster and its attorney know they will be fighting an uphill battle at trial and are more willing to offer a favorable compensation amount.
We just settled a substantial injury case that blamed our client for speeding when he crashed into a truck and several eyewitnesses listed on the report confirmed this. And last year we resolved a major wrongful death case where the police report initially said that the decedent driver was wearing his seat belt. However, in her deposition, the police officer said that he was not wearing his belt. Further, she now believed that he was speeding and not paying proper attention to the road. So just because the police report police testimony is unfavorable does not mean that a case is lost.
The accident report may or may not be used in court
Almost every case settles out of court. But if it goes to trial, can an attorney simply hand the judge the police report and it is automatically introduced as evidence? On the other hand, can one side try to keep out a report that hurts its position?
The police report may be considered hearsay and kept out of evidence. But if the officer is qualified to give an opinion and the court allows the report to be introduced, the officer will read what he wrote down on his report a year or two ago. Of course, his opinions are subject to cross-examination by both sides.
We will get the police report for you at no charge
How do you get a copy of your police report? Call us and we will mail or fax you a copy of your accident report with no obligation.
If you have been injured in a Dallas-Fort Worth area crash, contact a good car accident lawyer who can help you understand the legal process. Please call or email us if you need our help.