Proving Fault: Car Accidents and the Police Report By Sean Burke on February 06, 2019

Accident report being filled outAccording to numbers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP), there were 178 fatalities and 14,721 injuries from Orange County, CA auto collisions in 2015. This is the highest number of motor vehicle crash fatalities in Orange County since 2007. Numbers like these help explain why our experienced team of auto accident and car crash lawyers take these cases so seriously.

Following a serious auto accident, police officers responding to the crash will often write a police report, which may be helpful to your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Sean M. Burke would like to consider how police reports can help prove fault, and what limitations must be considered when a police report is used as evidence.

How Police Reports Work

A police report contains a summary of the facts of an incident. For auto accidents, the police report will typically include pertinent information related to the collision and the parties who were involved.

What Information Is in a Police Report?

While the contents of a police report can vary, the following information is common in most auto accident police reports:

  • Date and time of the crash
  • Location of the crash
  • Make and model of vehicles involved
  • License plate numbers
  • Driver/occupant names, contact info, and insurance details
  • Information on witnesses of the crash
  • Statements from motorists and witnesses
  • Descriptions of vehicle damage
  • Diagram of the collision
  • Notes on laws violated/citations issued
  • Notes on road and weather conditions
  • Officer's opinion about the collision

Fact and Opinion in a Police Report

You’ll note that in addition to the facts of the crash, the reposting officer also offers their opinion about the crash. The officer’s opinion is subjective. In some cases, an insurance company’s assessment of an auto collision is much different from the officer’s opinion; this is not uncommon.

Will the Police Report Prove Fault?

Not necessarily. While it can be helpful for your case, the officer’s opinion is not the same as objective fact. What the police report can do is help build a stronger case with its factual account.

In essence, the who, what, when, and where are answered, though the question of why and how may still be up for debate. Your attorney can help build a case by weighing fact and opinion, and showing how the events add up. So while the police report may not be a definitive tool in proving fault, it can be quite helpful for your case.

How Can I Get a Copy of My Police Report?

There are two ways of getting a copy of your police report:

  • Getting a Free Copy - If your insurance company has already requested a copy of the police report, you can request a copy of it through a claims representative.
  • Paying for Your Own Copy - The officer who responds to your crash will provide you with a receipt for your case. You can obtain the police report from the specified office by paying an administrative fee.

Speak with an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer

For more information about your legal rights after a car crash, be sure to contact an experienced auto accident lawyer. The attorneys of Burke Law are here to help. You can reach us by phone at (949) 438-4416.

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