Posted in Car Accidents on March 17, 2021
When you’re involved in a car accident, it’s important to understand the usefulness of a police report. It can actually serve as evidence in the event that you decide to file a claim against the responsible party. Particularly if there were injuries and/or property damage, this report could help you to establish fault.
If you’re going to actively seek damages from the at-fault party, the police report can be used to help you. It’s another document that lends toward the credibility of what was said. Further, there are important aspects of the document that can help to paint the picture of what happened.
There’s often the question of whether it’s necessary to call the police following a car accident or not.
The law in Louisiana is very clear. If you’re involved in an automobile accident, you are required to report it to the local police department in the event that any of the following occurs:
When any of the above happens, you can call 911 to report the accident. The operator will also ask if you or anyone at the scene requires medical assistance. This is important to determine whether a fire truck and ambulance will need to be sent or if a police officer alone should be dispatched.
While you wait for the police to arrive, you should make every effort to move your vehicle to the side of the road. Of course, before moving it, be sure to take as many photos as you can, if your injuries allow you to do so.
A copy of the police report can be a useful document. While you won’t be able to use it to “prove” fault, it can be used in plenty of other ways.
If you had to call 911 to get a police officer out to the scene of the crime, you’re often able to get a copy of the police report on the spot. If they cannot give you one, they’ll often give you a card to tell you how to get it within the next 24-48 hours.
There are also online record request services. It’s important to at least know the name of the law enforcement agency that came out to the scene, such as the Louisiana State Police, NOPD, or another agency. In some instances, there may be a small administrative fee required for you to obtain the copy, either by email or in print.
It’s important to understand that police reports are not admissible in court. However, they can be used effectively in a settlement negotiation, particularly for car accident cases.
Insurance companies will be using the police report to help determine fault along with other documentation:
You, too, can use the police report with all of the information you’ve gathered. While you’re entitled to draft a “demand letter” to the insurance company of the at-fault party, this is often more effective when you’re working with a lawyer. An experienced lawyer will know exactly how to use the police report to show why you’re demanding the amount that you are.
Police reports can provide a significant number of facts. It will talk about the date of the incident, the weather, and may contain contact information for any witnesses. Additional surrounding information may also be included, which may be of use depending on what was recorded.
Some police reports may be clear as to who was at fault based on all of their observations. If it was clear, for example, that one party broke the law, that will be included on the police report. If anyone was charged with anything, such as failure to yield or failure to wear a seat belt, that will be written in the police report. It can make it that much easier to establish fault and paint a clear picture as to how the accident happened.
Often, police reports are inadmissible in court because they’re considered “hearsay.” An officer is called to the scene after the accident has already happened. They didn’t witness anything. Instead, they can only say what they have been told by the parties involved in the accident.
It is hearsay because the officer has no intimate knowledge of what happened. He’s going solely on what he was told. Only if the officer has direct knowledge of the incident can his statements be used in court. There are instances where this can happen, such as if he were on the road when the accident happened, allowing him to witness everything that went wrong.
Essentially, a report can only be admissible if it can hold up against cross-examination. Since a standard police report will only involve saying what the officer was told by the victim and the other driver, it will not typically be used in a courtroom.
The moment you’re involved in a car accident, it’s a good idea to work with a lawyer. It can make it easier to understand your rights and determine if you have a case against the person responsible for the accident.
Whether you received a copy of the police report on-site or not, your lawyer can help you obtain a copy. Then, the two of you can review the contents of the report together. It will make it easier to fact-check all that is included and dispute anything that may not be accurate.
Understanding how a police report is important, but it’s not everything when filing a claim against the responsible party. At Redmann Law, we have experienced NOLA lawyers to help you navigate the laws of Louisiana.