Determining Fault & Theories of Liability
Importance of the Police Report in a Truck Accident
Personal Injury Lawyers » Importance of the Police Report in a Truck Accident
How Important is a Police Accident Report When Determining Fault in an 18 wheeler Accident?
If you have ever been in an auto accident you probably spoke to the police and they made a report of the accident. The police report can be useful for identifying potential witnesses, getting the preliminary facts of the accident, and obtaining preliminary witness statements. However, the police reports actual effect in determining who is at fault in an accident is extremely overrated. In a court of law, the opinions expressed by the officer who made the report are essentially meaningless with some context provided by attorneys for either the plaintiff or defense. Therefore, it can be said that the real value of the police report is its ability to aid your attorney in illustrating to a jury what occurred; not that the police report itself is entirely meaningful or significant on its own.
As such, the most important thing you can do is hire an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights and make sure that the police report alone does not determine the factor of your case for better or for worse.
Police Reports are Not Automatically Admissible in Trial
The reason why a police report’s value is generally overrated is, in the unlikely event that your case made it to trial, the police report is not inherently admissible into court without being properly “proved up“. Getting a document (ANY document) admissible can be a complex matter that must be executed in accordance with the Texas Rules for Civil Procedure. If you hope to prove your side of the story simply by showing up with a police report in hand, you will be disappointing. If the police report is helpful to your side, your attorney will need to take several steps in order to ensure that a jury will ever be able to see it. Then your attorney must explain the relevance of every important fact contained in the report. Again, without context, the report is essentially ineffective.
Police Officers are Often Not Trained in Traffic Accident Analysis
Another reason why you can’t simply rely on the police report to be your star witness is that police officer are not viewed as “experts” for the purposes of civil court proceedings. Police officers are not always adequately trained to analyze an accident scene. Furthermore, for the report to be scientifically valid, the measurements and summaries must be based on some standard and the instruments used must be properly calibrated.
In some rare cases, the police officers investigating the accident scene will document and record the meticulous manner by which they calibrate their measurement equipment as well as show all of the formulas and calculations used with regard to deriving speed, braking force, etc. Such police reports are very credible. But most police officers do not go through such lengths, and the reports they make are dubious in nature. After all, how reliable is a police report when the officer can’t swear under oath that he knows his tools were undoubtedly working properly? How reliable is a police report when the conclusions are not backed by verifiable mathematics?
Often times a police report contains little more than party names and other information such as insurance and witness statements, however, the actual analysis of the accident is lacking. If you were on a jury, how much stock would you put in such an understated report?
Police Do Not View Accidents in Light of Civil Liability
This is arguably the most important point of this article. Police officers are not judges nor juries. They cannot determine civil liability and the evidence that they look for and then document in a report is only coincidentally similar to the evidence used in a truck accident case in some instances and completely irrelevant in other instances.
Police reports are not always the best indicator of fault because the police analyze the accident from the view of criminal liability, rather than civil liability. There is a large variance in civil and criminal law, including what constitutes criminal liability and civil liability. Police often do not possess the requisite knowledge and training to recognize the differences that may be important in determining civil liability over criminal liability. Reasons such as these are the reasons that it is important to contact your lawyer as soon as possible, rather than risk relying on an unfavorable police report.
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The Best Thing You Can Do At the Scene of the Truck Accident
You do not have to wait and rely 100% on the police report to record all parts of the accident. You can take steps to protect your interest in the accident claim. There are many things a person in an accident can do to assist in their traffic accident case, such as take digital photographs of the traffic scene immediately after the accident. Photos at the scene of the accident can be the best to accurately recreate the scene of the accident. Taking notes about the accident immediately following the accident can also be beneficial; as time passes you may forget minor details that may be vital to your claim.
The attorneys at our law office are trained and experienced in all areas of personal injury law, we are able to analyze an accident scene and find the facts that will be important in making your claim, please contact them to schedule your free consultation and discuss the facts of your case.