Inaccurate Police Reports in Car Accident Cases
Hollywood and its associated media present police work as a constant cycle of car chases and shootouts, where the good guys win. However, this is an inaccurate depiction of the majority of police work.
A police officer needs to write a report for every service call, to document the details of events and investigations as they occur. Police reports are very important to the justice system, as they lay foundation for legal cases. For this reason, police reports are considered legal documents. Any mistake made in a police report could affect the entire case by failing to provide clear information about wrongdoing.
What is an accident report?
The accident report is a summary of information regarding the crash, containing facts related to the accident and the opinions of the investigating officer. The investigating officer who responds to a request for assistance at the scene of a car accident is in charge of drafting the accident report.
Most accident report forms are filed more for insurance purposes than for criminal investigation, although some accident investigations have led to criminal charges. The investigators involved with insurance companies will look at the accident report, and complete or begin their own investigation based on the information in that report. Copies of each of these reports must be sent to the State.
Common mistakes in inaccurate police reports
Police reports are very important as they trigger the criminal justice process. For this reason, it is important to understand the common mistakes found in police reports. Police officers make mistakes like all people do, but considering the societal importance of their job, they cannot afford to take their responsibilities lightly.
A single error on a police report could land an innocent person behind bars, increase the charges against a defendant, and ruin a person's life. Outlined below are some common mistakes made in police reports:
- Grammar, spelling, punctuation errors: Officers tend to make grammatical errors such as putting periods and commas outside of quotation marks, when they should be placed inside the quotation marks. Other mistakes include capitalization, spelling, and punctuation errors.
- Writing in passive voice: The preferred style of writing in police reports is the active voice. With that being said, officers who write in passive voice tend to omit key details of a reported crime. Passive voice can make it difficult to understand the report.
- Leaving out the results of the investigation: Another common mistake police make in their reporting is leaving out critical details of an investigation, including the results. Making up assumptions is never allowed in police report writing, some officers may write thorough and detailed accounts of their investigation but fail to report the final result.
- Factual mistakes: Factual inaccuracies on police reports are more common than you may think. Police officers may record incorrect times, license plate numbers, driver's license numbers, names, addresses, and other critical details needed in a criminal case. As a result, an attorney can challenge the validity of a report as well as the integrity of a police officer to help get their client's charges reduced or dropped altogether.
Consequences of inaccurate accident police report
Police officers are constantly busy, they tend to treat car accidents that do not result in major injuries as insignificant. If someone is not critically injured, the officer may just go through the motions when collecting evidence and putting together the police report.
After a car accident, when a claim is reported, the insurance company will conduct its own investigation. One of the first things that an insurance company will ask for is the police report. This is because the accident report is supposed to contain accurate information about the car accident.
The report acts, in many ways, as the official narrative of what occurred. The insurance company will rely on the version of events in the report when deciding which driver was at fault and who should be responsible for paying damages. Police reports that inaccurately assign some or all of the blame to the wrong driver can cause serious problems and make injury settlement negotiation a lot harder.
How to correct inaccuracies in accident police reports
The police report is an important document that insurance companies use to determine accountability. If you disagree with the details of the police report after your accident, there are steps you can take to make sure your insurance provider gets all the correct facts. Errors found in police reports should not be taken lightly by any means. Here are some helpful tips on how to get a police report corrected:
- Be polite: Your attitude and approach with the police officer can go a long way in convincing him to correct an error. You will get further if you are polite and speak to the officer first rather than going behind his back to see his supervisor.
- Provide documentation: For any error, especially factual ones, the police officer will be more likely to correct your police report if you provide him with appropriate documentation of the mistake. For example, if the year, make, or model of your vehicle is wrong, you could provide him with a copy of your vehicle registration to show this.
- Act quickly: You want to obtain the police report as soon as it is available and contact the officer regarding any errors as soon as possible. It may be easier to get him to make corrections before the police report becomes final.
- Provide medical records: If you were interviewed by the officer at the accident scene or at the hospital, you may not have clearly explained what happened due to the pain or medications you were given. You may want to provide the officer with medical reports showing this if you need to request that he correct your statement.
- Employ an experienced attorney: Finally, if you find errors other than factual ones that are easy to correct, you should hire an experienced car accident attorney and have them contact the police for you. Your attorney may have greater success convincing the officer to amend the report.