While not admissible in court for legal reasons, the police report regarding your auto crash is vital if you need to file a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. It should be one of the first documents that the insurance adjuster requests. It contains important information such as:
- Details of your crash, such as the date, time, and location
- Contact information for any drivers involved in the accident and any witnesses
- Statements from any drivers or witnesses that were involved
- Damage to the vehicles
- Any injuries that occurred
- Officer’s narrative of how the crash occurred, his conclusions as to the cause, and whether a citation was issued to either driver
- Pictures of the accident scene and the damage to any vehicles
- Diagram—which could show the scene and point of impact of the motor vehicles
The report and the police officer’s opinion about the cause of the crash can be extremely persuasive when settling your claim. If you must take your case to a jury trial, the officer could testify about his findings at your trial. However, not all police reports are completely accurate. What happens when you get a copy of the report and find that it contains errors?
Why Do Officers Make Errors in Police Reports?
Police officers are human, and like the rest of us, sometimes make mistakes. In addition, the police arrive at the scene after the wreck has occurred. The officers often rely on conflicting versions of what occurred, few witnesses, and little physical evidence. The errors fall into two categories:
- Factual errors. Errors of fact often involve the basic factual details, such as the date of the accident or a vehicle’s make or model. These mistakes can be relatively easy to fix.
- Disputed information. These types of mistakes are usually not factual mistakes, but rather disputes about mischaracterizing a statement you, the other driver, or a witness made. These errors can be much more difficult to correct than factual ones.
Steps to Take to Correct Your Police Report
If you find errors in the police report—even factual ones—you do not want to ignore them. Here are some helpful tips on how to get a police report corrected:
- Be polite. Your attitude and approach with the police officer can go a long way in convincing him to correct an error. You will get further if you are polite and speak to the officer first rather than going over his head to his supervisor.
- Provide documentation. For any error, especially factual ones, the police officer will be more likely to correct your police report if you provide him with documentation of the mistake. For example, if the year, make, or model of your vehicle is wrong, you could provide him with a copy of your vehicle registration to show this.
- Act quickly. You want to obtain the police report as soon as it is available and contact the officer regarding any errors as soon as possible. It may be easier to get him to make corrections before the police report becomes final.
- Provide medical records. If you were interviewed by the officer at the accident scene or at the hospital, you may not have clearly explained what happened due to the pain or medications you were given. You may want to provide the officer with medical reports showing this if you need to request that he correct your statement.
- Provide a statement. When the error is about disputed information, the officer may not agree to correct the report. However, you can write up your own account and ask that it be attached to the report. Be certain that what you write contains details and is accurate, not just your own conclusions. Include pictures or other documentation that proves what you are saying in your statement. It is within the officer’s discretion whether to add your statement to the report.
- Retain an experienced attorney. If you find errors other than factual ones that are easy to correct, you should retain an experienced car accident attorney and have him contact the police for you. He may have greater success convincing the officer to amend the report or if not, can help you write a strong statement to attach to the report.
In addition, hiring an attorney soon after your crash is always a smart strategy. He can help you avoid mistakes, investigate your accident more thoroughly, and negotiate your settlement. If you were involved in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, call our firm today to schedule a free consultation with David Brauns.