Why Police Reports Matter

By Susan Handel, Esq.
April 15, 2017 at 8:19 pm  •  Posted in Insurance & Legal Insights by

You have just been in a motorcycle accident. The first thing you need to do, if you can, is to make sure that you, any passengers on your motorcycle, and any other people in other vehicles or motorcycles are safe. The next thing you need to do is call 911 and request that the police come to the scene of your accident and make a report. You are likely to speak with a 911 operator that will ask you if anyone is injured and whether you need an ambulance. If you tell the 911 operator that you are not injured, the operator will not request that the police come to the scene of your accident.

Not every injury produces symptoms immediately. It is very possible that you may believe that you have not sustained any injuries in your accident, only to begin experiencing pain, weakness, altered sensation, headaches and/or other abnormalities later on, after you have left the scene of the accident. If you file a police report, and document even a minor injury, this will establish a record that the accident likely caused an injury. Subsequent medical treatment you may obtain will then relate back to your accident more easily. Any unknown injuries that become apparent at a later time will be easier to relate back to your accident as well. If you decide to file a personal injury claim as a result of the injuries you sustained in your accident, having a police report documenting the fact that you were injured will be invaluable.

If you’ve been involved in a serious motorcycle accident, and your adrenalin is flowing, and you’re in shock, but you don’t feel pain, I suggest the following: Call the 911 operator and tell them you need the police to come to the scene of the accident immediately. When the operator asks you whether you have been injured and need an ambulance, tell him or her that you are in “shock”, and that you need to be checked out but you will seek your own medical care. This way you stand a good chance of having the police come to the accident scene to make a report without tying up an ambulance that might be needed elsewhere.

The same holds true for your motorcycle. Your motorcycle may appear relatively undamaged at the scene of the accident. Filing a police report and documenting the fact that your motorcycle was involved in an accident establishes that record. If you learn later that more damage was done to your motorcycle than was apparent at the scene of the collision, it will be easier to relate that damage back to your accident.

WHAT DOES THE POLICE REPORT CONTAIN

  • location, date and time of accident
  • weather conditions
  • other conditions that may have contributed to cause of accident
  • parties involved in accident
  • description of injuries to all parties
  • witness statements
  • who is at fault for the accident
  • how the accident was caused
  • photographs of accident scene
  • insurance information of all parties
  • description of damage to motorcycles and vehicles
  • diagrams of accident scene
  • description of point of impact and point of rest
  • whether any vehicle code sections were violated, and if so, which section
  • whether any citations were issued

The police officers are well trained and experienced when it comes to preparing police reports. They will reconstruct the accident and conclude who was at fault. Their conclusion will be based on the statements of all parties and witnesses and the physical evidence at the scene of the accident. The police will take photographs in some cases. Since many motorcycle accidents result in serious injuries to riders, the riders are in no condition to gather information that is necessary to help them with a claim that may arise. Further, many riders will not know what information is necessary to obtain at the scene of the accident. Call the police if you are involved in a motorcycle accident and let them do the work for you. The police will be happy to assist you.

WHY THE POLICE REPORT IS IMPORTANT

UNBIASED THIRD PARTY OPINION

In addition to providing documentation of your motorcycle accident, the police report signifies an unbiased third party report of the accident. The police officers are well trained and experienced when it comes to accident reconstruction. They will reconstruct your accident from beginning to end and will establish the cause of the accident in the police report. A police officer can make a powerful appearance in a deposition or in court and testify as to how they prepared their report and how they came to establish fault. Insurance adjusters and jurors are more likely to believe a police officer than the defendant. If you are bringing a claim for personal injuries resulting from your motorcycle accident, the police report is invaluable as to both liability and damage factors involved.

THE DEFENDANT CAN’T BLAME THE ACCIDENT ON YOU

You can be sure that if the defendant admits fault at the scene of the accident, there is a 50/50 chance he will change his mind later on and then blame the cause of the accident on you. If the defendant admits fault to the police officer at the scene of the accident, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the defendant to change his story at a later time. Why? The defendant’s memory is more reliable closer to the event in question than at a later time. Further, the police know how to question parties at the scene of the accident in a manner that allows them to obtain accurate and truthful statements. So as a general rule, if you gave a statement to a police officer at the scene of the accident, that statement wiIl be good.

YOUR INJURY IS DOCUMENTED

If the police are the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, they will be the first to document your injury with a history of your complaints. If you do sustain an injury as a result of your motorcycle accident and it is documented on the police report, but your medical treatment is delayed, the delayed medical treatment can be related back to the accident. Why? Because it was documented immediately after the accident that you were injured and a record was established in the police report verifying this fact. The police report is often the first piece of evidence that verifies injuries in a motorcycle accident. This is very helpful when you are presenting a personal injury claim because the insurance adjusters will want verification of when your injuries first became apparent. If the injury complaints are not made at the scene of the accident, or shortly thereafter, the insurance folks love to blame the injuries on a cause other than the motorcycle accident.

SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS

Police reports are generally not admissible in court to prove the cause of a motorcycle accident because the police officer did not personally observe the collision. Further, the police report is considered inadmissible hearsay unless one of the hearsay exceptions applies. However, the police report can be used in personal injury settlement negotiations in a powerful way. The insurance adjusters are more likely to believe the police officer rather than the defendant and they know that a jury will feel the same. Moreover, the police report may document the injuries of the motorcycle rider that support the claim for damages being made. Finally, the police report may contain photographs of the accident, which verify severity of impact and motorcycle/vehicle damage. This is important because these are factors that are considered when awarding compensation to injured victims.

CALL THE POLICE AND PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS

If you’re involved in a serious motorcycle accident, call the police for assistance. The police report remains by far the most complete, objective record of what happened at the time of the accident.

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