If you are involved in a serious car accident, the investigating officer will prepare an accident report. Car accidents in Dallas are not normally reported unless someone needs an ambulance or the vehicles need a tow truck. This is also true of car accidents in Fort Worth and other surrounding areas. But, when the police officer does prepare a report, what effect does that have in my case?
Highly Persuasive, But Not Conclusive.
An accident report is prepared by the police officer who responds to a car accident. The officer investigates the accident by inspecting the accident scene and vehicles involved. The officer will also interview the drivers and any eye-witnesses.
Although an accident report is authorized under the law, it is not conclusive. It is merely the officer’s opinion about how the accident happened.
The accident report is, however, persuasive. And it might be very persuasive depending on what information is included in the report.
Statements of the Drivers
Sometimes the accident report includes statements of the drivers. The officer might describe what the driver stated about how the accident occurred. This can be very persuasive, especially if one driver says something incriminating. For instance, one driver might state that he did not see the color of his light when he entered the intersection. He might also say the he thought it was green, but saw it was red at the last second.
I have seen statements like this in many reports. These statements can make the reporting officer’s job so much easier when making his conclusions of fault.
Statements of Witnesses
If witnesses are at the scene, the officer will get their version of the accident. These statement can be extremely helpful, especially if each driver is claiming the other is at fault. Why? Simple… Independent witnesses presumably do not have a bias toward one driver or the other. They don’t have an ax to grind. Therefore, they are more believable and credible.
If witnesses were present, then a responsible police officer will note the witnesses’ name and phone number in the report.
There are times when there might be witnesses, but the officer does not provide their information. This can be quite frustrating. After all, the officer must understand that the report is not necessarily conclusive with the insurance company or the jury. They always want to hear from the witnesses.
Keep Digging for the Truth
I once had a car accident case that occurred in Dallas where my client sustained very serious injuries. The police report found the other driver at fault. Of course, the other driver had denied fault in the the accident. But the police officer did not list any witnesses in the report. Could it be that no witnesses stopped for such a serious accident on a very busy roadway?
I obtained the 9-1-1 report and audio recording. I also got a copy of the dash-cam and body-cam footage. After reviewing the 9-1-1 report and videos, I discovered that the officers actually spoke with two witnesses at the scene. They even got their names and phone numbers. I contacted the witnesses. The witnesses in turn were able to provide me with the names of two other witnesses. Why the officer did not include the witnesses’ names in the report is beyond me and very irresponsible in my opinion.
So, it just goes to show that the accident report is not conclusive. The true story of any accident rests in the minds of the drivers and the witnesses.
How the Car Accident Report is Used in Court.
An accident report can be used in court. However, you should get a certified report. An uncertified report is not admissible. It must be certified to be admitted as an exhibit. It only costs a couple dollars more. But it makes all the difference if you want to enter it into evidence.
But, just because you have a police report does not mean the judge or jury has to follow the officer’s conclusion. When it comes down to it, the accident facts are determined by all the evidence. This includes the testimony of the drivers, witnesses, and any physical evidence. Although the accident report is helpful, the police officer did not witness the accident.
This is why it is so important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. There are so many misconceptions in the law that people tend to take for granted. One of those misconceptions is that the police report is binding on the parties. That is the farthest from the truth. In fact, I was once told by a judge in a Dallas personal injury case that he has seen the jury go against the police report in most of his cases. That is why your personal injury lawyer will not only look at the police report, but will also obtain other evidence to verify the facts of your case.