March 15, 2015 • Personal Injury FAQs
You are involved in an auto accident and the police officer comes to the scene to take down information. He records certain information from witnesses and now in the report, it says that the police officer believed that the accident was caused by the other driver. Can you use this information at the time of the trial or to perhaps even avoid a trial?
The Police Accident Report
The police accident report is a business document, taken in the ordinary course of police business. Since the police report is such a document, you can access it and present it as evidence in at your accident trial. However, if the police officer did not witness your particular accident, then how can he form a conclusion, as to how the accident occurred?
Well you can say and argue that since there were people who witnessed the accident, the police officer took down information from these witnesses, and came to his own conclusion. However, we have to understand whether the person who gave the police officer the information was under any legal duty or obligation to provide that information.
If the person was not under legal duty to provide that information, then it is going to be a significant challenge to get that information and the conclusion of the officer in front of the jury. Now if the witness comes into the court and testifies, then it is something else. Obviously, a witness can come and testify as to what he or she saw. The witness can say that he saw the other driver transition through a red light and that would be admissible.
Objection of the Defense
The defense attorney is going to object to putting certain information into evidence, because he will argue that the police officer did not question the witness, and then he was not qualified to conclude about who was at fault in this particular accident. This is even more profound and vital since he did not witness the accident personally.
Importance of Witness Statements
In cases where there is a question about the traffic lights, where one driver claims he had the green light while the other says he did not, the witnesses can provide a clear picture. The witness can say that he witnessed the particular driver go through a red light. Ultimately, the key question is, whom is the jury going to believe? Having a police officer who witnessed the accident is obviously going to help.
However, if he comes to the accident scene afterwards and records information, after the fact, and takes information from witnesses, who do not have a duty or obligation to provide that information to the police officer, then it will be a challenge to get that police report honored or marked into evidence. This does not make too much sense since these witness statements should be taken seriously. Certainly if they all point in the same direction.
Even if such a police report were admitted into evidence, it would be much better if the witnesses mentioned in the report came to court and testified, as the defense would get a chance to cross-examine them. If after the cross-examination, the facts of the case remain the same, then the jury is more likely to believe the police report and rule accordingly.