- March 3, 2022
- Jed Strong
- Vehicle Accidents
A car accident police report is an important tool in a car accident case. The police report doesn’t actually decide the case, but since the officer is often the only neutral party on the scene of the accident, what they find generally carries a lot of weight. Unfortunately, a police report can be wrong for a number of reasons, including the officer’s mistake or the untruthfulness of one of the drivers. Here’s what can happen.
What Happens If a Car Accident Police Report Is Wrong?
To understand what happens if a car accident police report is wrong, it’s important to understand what happens to that report after the accident. Each driver has a limited amount of time to notify their insurance company of the accident. If they don’t notify the insurance company by the deadline, they may lose their right to be covered for that claim. When the insurance company finds out about the accident, it will request a copy of the police report.
How Do Insurance Companies Use the Police Report?
Insurance companies make their own initial determination of who was at fault for the accident and how much they should have to pay. The insurance company’s decision is never final, but it does provide an important starting point for your claim. In order to make their determinations, the insurance companies use adjusters. Adjusters are trained to use the facts they have about the accident to determine fault and financial liability.
Adjusters almost always review accidents from an office well after the accident has occurred. It is rare for insurance companies to send someone to the scene of the accident. Because of this, the police report is one of the most important pieces of information the adjuster has. The police report may have witness statements, accident diagrams, and descriptions of the damage to each car, just like the adjuster would get if they were on scene.
The adjuster will often accept the police report as true even if it is wrong.
How Do Car Accident Lawyers and Courts Use the Police Report?
The more serious a car accident is, the more likely it is you’ll need to use a car accident lawyer to get full compensation instead of relying on the insurance company. If you have to file a personal injury lawsuit, the police report is still important.
Both lawyers will use the police report as a starting point to gather more evidence and to see if there are any inconsistencies in what people say. If the police report is wrong and you say something that contradicts it, the other lawyer may try to use that against you. Of course, you do have the right to introduce other evidence to support why you are right and the police report is wrong.
When it comes time for a trial, the police report can’t actually be used as evidence under Washington law. Many other states have similar laws. What this means is that neither lawyer can give the police report to the jury to prove their case. The lawyers have to call witnesses to court and introduce photographs and other evidence that supports their case. However, a previous statement you gave to the police in a police report can be used by the other lawyer to question your testimony on the stand. The jury would then have to decide whether it’s your testimony or the police report that is wrong.
What If a Police Accident Report Is Wrong?
There are three things you can do if a police report is wrong.
- At the scene of the accident, the police officer may tell you what they intend to put in the report or give you a chance to review the report before they finalize it. You can respectfully tell them that you disagree, explain why, and ask them to change it. Some officers will be more open to discussion than others, but there is always a chance they won’t come to what you think is the right conclusion, since they weren’t there to see the accident. You can at least ask them to let you add to your statement. If they misquoted you in your statement, you should request that they revise it.
- Call the police department after you receive a copy of the report if you discover errors. For example, maybe the officer listed the wrong vehicle as being at fault but wrote or remembers that it was the minivan that hit the car not the other way around. The police department may be willing to amend the report and provide a corrected copy.
- Introduce evidence to contradict the police report if you can’t convince the police to change it. For example, you might have a dashcam video or neutral witness to prove that the accident didn’t happen as the officer wrote in the police report description. Whether you’re working out a settlement with the insurance company or going to trial, the police report never has the final say in an accident.
What Happens If You Lie on an Accident Report?
Because a police report is so important in a car accident case, it’s not uncommon for drivers to lie when they give their side of the story. For example, both drivers might claim they had the green light and the other driver had the red light.
Giving false information on an accident report can be a crime. Unfortunately, this is rarely prosecuted because it’s often impossible to prove that the driver knew they were lying instead of just having a different memory of the accident.
The most common consequence of lying on a police accident report is losing credibility when the lie is discovered. If a police officer, insurance adjuster, judge, or jury realizes that a party lied about one part of the accident, they will be less likely to believe anything else that party says. They may also be more likely to believe the other party is telling the truth when they say the police report is wrong.
Get Help With a Police Report
If you believe the police report for your accident is wrong, it’s important to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you get it corrected if possible or gather the evidence you need to prove that it’s wrong. To learn more, call Strong Law Accident & Injury Attorneys at 206-741-1053.