Obtaining and Using a Police Report
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident or other incident to which a law enforcement officer responded, a police report was probably generated. 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.
Steps to Take to Get a Copy of the Police Report
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.
Identifying Information of Witnesses
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.
Can I Amend a Police Report?
Sometimes the information provided in a police report may be inaccurate. Fortunately, it’s possible to amend a police report in certain circumstances. While amending a factual error in a report is a relatively simple process, amending a disputed fact, such as who was at fault, is typically much more difficult.
You should contact your local department to learn about the appropriate next steps. In many cases, that may involve simply adding your statement to the accident report.
Get Legal Help to Answer Your Questions About Police Reports for Car Accidents
If you've been involved in a car accident and have questions about obtaining or using a police report, it's best to speak with a local car accident attorney. A skilled attorney who specializes in handling car accident cases can help you obtain compensation for any medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering you experienced.