Obtaining and Using a Police Report
A police report was probably generated if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident or other incident to which a law enforcement officer responded. You are entitled to receive a copy of any such report, so it is a good idea to contact the responding law enforcement agency as soon as possible after the incident. If you know the name of the agency, locate them in the phone book or on the internet, and call them to request a copy of the report. You may need to pay a small fee to cover photocopying, and the agency may require that you appear in person to pick up the report. Some agencies will mail a copy of the report to you at no charge.
How Can a Police Report Help in an Injury Case?
While a police report itself probably will not be admissible in civil court proceedings, it can go a long way toward gaining negotiation leverage in any personal injury dispute. For example, during informal settlement discussions with opposing counsel or an insurance carrier, you or your attorney can use the facts and conclusions found in a police report to gain an advantage on such issues as:
- Circumstances of the incident, including the time of day, date, specific location, and weather conditions at the time.
- Preliminary assessment of fault, especially in motor vehicle accidents. For example, after a car accident a police report may contain a responding officer's observations as to which driver might have violated the state's vehicle code, or whose carelessness may have caused the accident.
In addition to providing leverage during discussions on central issues such as fault for an accident, police reports can contain the identifying information of anyone who might have witnessed the incident, or who arrived on the scene soon afterward. At a minimum, most reports will list the name and telephone number of witnesses and those at the scene, and in some situations the report may also contain witness statements about what happened. Having contact information for these people, and especially a record of their views as to what took place, can be a valuable asset for you and your attorney when proving what happened and who was at fault.