One of the items you try to get after an accident is a copy of the police report. The report gives your legal team a good starting place for their accident investigation. But what happens if a car accident police report is wrong? Police officers can only use the information presented to them to compile the police report. It’s more of an opinion than a statement of facts, since the officer most likely did not actually see what happened.
What is in a Police Report?
The report contains several pieces of information that could help during an accident investigation, including:
- The names and contact information of those involved in the accident
- Witnesses and their contact information
- Vehicle descriptions
- A commentary of what happened based on what those involved in the accident told the police officer
- Laws broken (such as running a red light), if any, by those involved in the wreck
- Date, time and location of the accident.
What is in a police report sounds pretty straightforward, but in some cases, the officer gets it wrong. He or she might receive incorrect information from the other drivers or witnesses. Your name might be spelled wrong, or the VIN could have an error.
The officer can only put into the report the information he has gleaned after the fact, and that includes what the various parties involved tell him. However, if the other party lies or remembers the incident incorrectly, you can’t blame the officer since they did not see the accident firsthand.
How to Obtain a Copy of the Police Report
One of the first things insurance companies ask for is a copy of the police report. However, before handing it over, you should ensure that all information is correct. Generally, you can obtain a copy of the police report by visiting the police station and asking for it.
What to Do if You See an Error on Your Police Report
If you need the police to make changes to the police report, contact the officer who wrote the report. You will need to prove that the information is incorrect. For example, if the officer mixed up the VINs, it’s a simple process of providing a copy of the title or registration to the officer. If there is a mistake in the spelling of your name, providing a copy of your license can rectify that. What do do when you see an error in your police report in cases like this is pretty clear.
However, if the officer wrote down that you ran a red light when you know you did not, you will have a harder time getting that information changed. You will need extensive evidence showing that you did not run the red light. If you had a dashcam showing video of the minutes prior to the accident, including your stopping for the red light, you might be able to convince the officer to change the report.
The best way to deal with an incorrect police report is to contact a car accident attorney and let them help.
Why You Should Correct the Police Report
If you or your attorneys can correct the police report, you have a better chance of recovering the compensation you deserve. Keep in mind that the police are not investigators and can only report what you, the other drivers and witnesses tell them. Your attorney can hire forensic accident investigators to investigate the report.
While there are many reasons to contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident, the investigation is a major reason. Even if the police report is correct, your attorney will want an investigation into the accident to help prove your case.
Evidence tends to disappear. Whether unintentional or not, missing evidence makes it more difficult to win your case. The missing evidence might be the evidence needed to prove that the police report is incorrect.
Evidence also helps you win your case. It can show if the defendant lied about what happened in the accident. Many factors can destroy evidence, including:
- The weather could erode evidence at the scene.
- A defendant could repair his or her vehicle because their attorney advised them to, or the police said it was okay to repair it.
- A defendant could repair his vehicle to hide evidence that he caused the accident.
- The police could inadvertently destroy evidence by leaving a vehicle in an impound lot unprotected from the elements.
Once the evidence has been destroyed, it is difficult to correct a police report. It is also difficult to prove that you were not at fault for the accident that caused your damages.
If the attorneys have nothing else to go on except the incorrect police report, you could lose your case or recover a partial award instead of the award you deserve.
The Scope of Losing Damages: What Happens if a Police Accident Report is Wrong?
The amount of damages you could lose could mean the difference between paying for medical expenses for a few months or years or the rest of your life after a catastrophic accident. If the accident was not your fault, but you do not have evidence showing otherwise, and the police report shows that you were at fault because the officer relied on incorrect statements from witnesses, you might not recover any damages.
If the court determines that you were partially at fault and you have no evidence to prove otherwise, and the police report incorrectly says you ran a red light and hit the defendant who was traveling at 120 mph, the amount you might receive could be significantly lower. Whereas you could have recovered enough for ongoing treatments for a traumatic brain injury if you were able to show that you did not run the red light, you might recover enough for treatments for only a few years instead.
As soon as you or a loved one notices something wrong with the police report, contact a car accident attorney. Do not wait, as investigators will need to access the accident scene and vehicles involved before evidence is destroyed.
What Happens if You Lie on an Accident Report?
The person who lies on an accident report could face criminal charges in addition to having to pay damages to those injured in the accident. Those in accidents often hire lawyers and investigators to investigate the accident.
One of the first things an accident victim does is to obtain a copy of the police report, so he or she will notice if something is not correct and will most likely get an attorney involved.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in an accident and you believe that the other driver involved lied on the police car accident report, contact a car accident lawyer at Tyroler Leonard Injury Law as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.