How Valuable Is A Police Report To Your Injury Claim?
With a few exceptions, police reports aren't usually admissible in civil courts. These are the courts that handle personal injury claims, yet accident victims are still advised to get copies of police reports. Why is this? Well, the police reports may not be admissible in court, but they can still strengthen your case in other ways. For example, you can use the reports to:
Verify the Circumstances of Your Accident
Police reports are usually factual so you can use them to confirm the facts of the accident. For example, it will include the important details such as the date, time of day, weather, location and similar facts. These are important things that your lawyer should know even if you are angling for an out of court settlement
For example, the specific location of the crash may reveal a bend that the defendant did not take into account while overtaking you. If the accident occurred while it was snowing or raining, then it's highly likely that visibility was reduced. All road users are expected to adjust their speeds to reasonable levels under such conditions.
Get a Preliminary Assessment of Guilt
Apart from using the report as a fact-checking document, you and your legal team can also use it to get a preliminary idea of who was guilty or contributed to the accident. In fact, this determination may help your lawyer to determine whether you should proceed with the case at all.
For example, the officer who responded to the scene may have noted how the other motorist was driving over the centerline. It may even tell you whether the other motorist was driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance. An insurance company that was hesitant in making an offer may be spurred into action by revelations of its client's guilt.
Identify Potential Witnesses
Your lawyer may also mine information about potential witnesses from the police report. As an accident victim, you need to take the details of all witnesses at the scene. However, this may not be possible, for example, if you are injured and don't have the time or presence of mind to do it. Even if you did take their contacts, gleaning more information from the police report won't hurt. Things like names, addresses and telephone numbers come in handy when it comes to tracking witnesses.
As you can see, this report is an important arsenal in your claim process. You shouldn't even wait for your lawyer to tell you to get it. Rather, just contact the law enforcement agency that investigated the accident and request for the report. The municipal police department (for accidents within cities and towns) and the Sheriff's department may also be of help.