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The police accident report got the facts wrong. Now what?

| Jul 8, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

You got hurt in a crash on 422. It was the other driver’s fault. But the police officer who responded to the scene wrote an accident report that got the facts backwards and made it look like you’re to blame. 

What now? Do the mistakes in the accident report mean you can’t receive compensation from the true at-fault driver to pay for your injuries and financial losses? 

In a word, no. It’s not unusual for police to misstate details of a crash in an accident report. You still have rights to compensation. Here’s why. 

Accident reports are a first take on a crash, not the final word

Pennsylvania law requires police officers who respond to the scene of an accident to prepare a report in most cases. The standard report catalogs a wide range of information about a crash, including: 

  • Location, road conditions, and direction of travel

  • Number of vehicles

  • Driver and passenger information

  • Injuries

  • First and most harmful event

  • Contributing factors

For the most part, police officers gather the information to put into a report at the accident scene. That’s not always an easy task. Crash scenes are chaotic places. The safety and the health of victims take priority. Officers also frequently need to contend with diverting traffic around the wrecked vehicles, monitoring clean-up efforts, and calming frightened or angry motorists. 

In other words, it’s easy for information to get garbled, for perspectives to get skewed, and for police to get things wrong in their reports. The conclusions reached in a police accident report do not serve as the final word on what happened or who is at fault. 

An experienced lawyer can investigate what happened

Lawyers who represent crash victims routinely investigate the facts of a crash. They may use the police accident report as a starting point for making inquiries, but they know never to treat it as the be-all-end-all. If a client insists the police accident report contains mistakes, lawyers can, and do, dig deeper and obtain evidence to prove what really happened. 

Importantly, a police accident report cannot usually be used as evidence in a courtroom. It’s what is known as “hearsay”, which means you cannot present it in court to prove the truth of the facts it contains. 

A lawyer for a crash victim can call the police officer who wrote the report to testify, walk the officer through the evidence the lawyer has collected, and demonstrate that, in fact, the other driver caused the wreck, and not the lawyer’s client.