Why Are Public Police Reports Important in Accident Cases?
If you’ve been in an accident, a police officer probably arrived on the scene fairly quickly. The officer talked with people at the scene, collected names and addresses, and made notes. After the accident, the officer used that information to prepare a police report. That report is not conclusive evidence of what happened, but it is a very important part of the documentary evidence relating to the accident. Trusted Virginia Beach car accident lawyer Jeff Brooke explains why.
What Is in a Public Police Report?
In Virginia, the Department of Motor Vehicles has a standard form accident report used by law enforcement, called a Police Crash Report. It contains detailed information about the accident, including:
- Date, time, and location of the accident;
- Individual driver names, addresses, license numbers, injury types, and offenses charges;
- Details about the vehicles involved in the accident;
- Passenger names and injury information;
- Pedestrian names and injury information;
- Details about the drivers and driving, including driver condition, actions, and distractions; vehicle maneuver details; and vehicle damage;
- Details about the accident, including location characteristics, roadway type, traffic control types, weather, and light conditions;
- Crash diagram;
- Commercial vehicle information, if one was involved.
In some local jurisdictions, including Virginia Beach, Police Crash Reports are available online. A copy of the report also can be obtained from the police department conducting the investigation, sometimes for a charge. One way to get a copy of the report for your accident is to ask your insurance company, since it is one of the first documents they retrieve after you report an accident.
Why Is the Police Crash Report Important in My Accident Case?
The public police report contains information the officer gathered at the scene or concluded from observing the scene after the accident occurred. Some of the information in the report is fact, and some of it is the opinion of the police officer.
Since the officer did not witness the accident first-hand, the police report is not conclusive evidence of what occurred in your accident for either the factual or opinion statements. However, it will be considered by the insurance companies in processing insurance claims. The insurance companies do not have to agree with the information in the report, but they will use that information a factor in determining who was at fault for insurance purposes.
Importantly, if a lawsuit goes to trial, Virginia law prohibits introduction of the Police Crash Report as evidence in the court case. The police officer may be called by either side to testify as a witness, but the Police Crash Report itself will not be introduced into evidence. Sometimes, other witnesses — including experts — will testify and disagree with what the police officer says. While the police officer’s testimony is relevant, it will not necessarily determine who is found to be at fault for an accident in a lawsuit. So, even if the accident report seems to imply that an accident was your fault, it may not prevent you from recovering in a court action.
While police reports cannot be used at a trial, they are used not only by insurance companies but also by the attorneys for the parties in a lawsuit during settlement discussions. As with insurance company use, a police report is not conclusive as to the information in it; however, it is one piece of evidence the lawyers will consider when they discuss the possibility of settling a lawsuit.
When to Talk with a Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer About Your Case
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident in Virginia — and you think someone else may be at fault — you should talk with an experienced personal injury attorney. Even if the public police report seems to blame you for the accident, the report is not conclusive and may not prevent you recovering for your injuries. Virginia Beach accident attorney Jeff Brooke has the experience and knowledge to investigate and assess your case and advise you of the best way to proceed. The Jeff Brooke Team is here to help you and your family. Contact us by phone at (757) 347-8524 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.