Automobile accidents are usually attended to with police assistance. The police create reports, which are required to be completed by the officers when they are called to the scene of an accident. In some instances, the presence of the officers has created complications for the involved parties. As a result, many drivers are confused about the role that officers play in their cases.
At the scene of an accident the role of the officer is to help reconstruct the accident, ascertain the witnesses and parties, and evaluate any statements made. If necessary, the officer may issue tickets to one or both parties. In some instances, the officer may offer an opinion as to who was at fault in the accident. This is a source of frustration for many parties as they feel as though no one will believe their version of the events. However, there is no such thing as finding someone liable solely or largely based on the police report. Remember, the police officer was not there to see the accident and it is not unusual for officers to make mistakes and reach the wrong conclusions in these reports.
Witnesses and parties are much more important to the determination of the claim as they have actual knowledge of the incident. When a party hands a police report to their attorney, it is helpful because there is an initial list of the parties and potential witnesses with contact and insurance information. This will help reduce the time to settle the claim.
Sometimes a police officer may be called in to testify about an accident. Again, since they do not have actual firsthand knowledge they will be seen as more of a neutral party. The scope of their testimony will be limited by the extent of their knowledge of the incident. If an officer gives an opinion they are not qualified to give, a good lawyer will make it apparent to a jury that the officer does not possess the requisite knowledge to provide the opinion. There have been instances of cases that were decided against the opinion of the officer.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.