Is A Police Report Admissible As Evidence In A Personal Injury Case?
After a car accident, the police will come and investigate the scene of the accident. The officer will interview the participants, survey the scene, and issue a traffic or accident report detailing how the accident happened. Often, the report will contain the officer’s conclusion about how the accident happened and who is ultimately at fault.
Getting and Using the Report
Your personal injury attorney will get that accident report, as will the defendant and the insurance company for the defendant.
You may be excited at the idea of your attorney having this accident report, and being able to show the jury eventually that the police officer found the defendant at fault, if that’s what it says. It sounds like powerful, compelling evidence to show a jury.
And it is. The problem is that the police report is also inadmissible—it cannot legally be shown to the jury at all.
This comes as a surprise to many accident victims. After all, police officers are generally credible, they investigate accident scenes all the time, so it would seem that they are qualified to say who was and who was not at fault for an accident. Why would the police report be inadmissible in your injury trial?
There are a lot of reasons. One main reason is that the police report contains hearsay; it retells what people at the scene told the police officer. That makes it an out of court statement that is being introduced into court as evidence, the textbook definition of hearsay.
But there is another reason, and it has to do with the credibility of the police officer. People, and thus, jurors, tend to give great weight and credibility to a police officer and their report. So much weight, that they may be overly inclined to believe whatever is on the police report, and thus, ignore any other evidence that may be presented at trial to the contrary.
The police report could just be too persuasive, and while police officers are credible, they aren’t accident reconstructionists, and they aren’t doing in depth analysis of accident scenes.
That means that a jury, potentially, would likely believe the police report almost automatically, even though the police report is not as thorough, and doesn’t contain as much evidence, as the sides would be presenting as evidence in the trial.
The Officer Can Still Testify
Of course, just because the accident report can’t be used, doesn’t mean the officer can’t testify. The officer can, to the extent he or she remembers the accident, tell the jury what he or she observed. And, information on the police report can often be used to get other information, like witness names.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today; we can gather the evidence that you need for your personal injury trial.