How Police Reports Impact Insurance Claims
By Chris Dixon
If you’ve been in a car accident, the odds are that emergency services show up. This may not include the police. However, if there were serious injuries, the right amount of availability for local or state response, there’s some sort of physical altercation, or if a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the police will likely file a report.
In this section of the FAQ, we’re going to discuss how police reports work and how they affect personal injury cases. As always, contact us for more information about your car accident claim. We offer free consultations and can help you win the reimbursement you deserve.
What’s In a Police Report?
Police reports vary based on which state you’re in, if the officer(s) are state police or a city police force, and what kind of accident it is. (A domestic dispute report would be different from a car accident, for instance.) The information they collect will be helpful for your case, or at least support your version of the story and define (or have an opinion on) who the at-fault driver was.
You can find the following information on most reports involving personal injuries or vehicle accidents:
- The date, time, and location of the accident.
- Contact information for all involved parties (names, address, phone numbers, insurers, etc.).
- Witness testimonies and contact information.
- What kind of damage was done (fender-bender, left wheel fell off, etc.).
- Road, lighting, and weather conditions.
- A diagram or sketch of the accident from multiple points-of-view.
- A statement citing any laws that were violated.
- The officer’s opinion of what may have happened to explain alleged fault.
Are Police Reports Admissible in Court?
Insurance companies will likely come out and do their own investigations. They will form their own opinions and gather their own facts about the incident. The insurer usually requests the police report which may cause bias for their alleged at-fault client during their own investigation, which is why courts usually favor police reports when determining fault unless there is new evidence.
Police reports are often used in settlement disputes. But, if a claim escalates and your injury claim goes to trial, these reports may be used as evidence or at least documents that help explain the incident.
The tricky thing about police reports is “hearsay,” since they’re on-the-spot reports done by police officers outside of court. In certain jurisdictions, a report may be an exception for admissibility if that court declares it a “public” or “business” record.
The report might not state who is allegedly at-fault. If this is the case, you and your car accident lawyer will need to provide additional evidence to support your claim for reimbursement. The claims adjusters who investigate the case are experienced investigators, and know that whatever report the police filed may be incorrect or incomplete. It’s important to collect as much information as possible and be open, direct, and communicate regularly with whatever insurance company you’re trying to settle the claim with.
How Much Can I Get For My Insurance Claim?
The damages you are able to collect are based on the compensatory damages you’ve endured. A claim is structured around medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages you may have suffered. If you lost a family member in a wreck, that affects the reasonable amount you can settle for. Suing or claiming against another driver also raises the question of negligence. If, for example, the collision was a straightforward accident, you won’t have as much ammo when going against large insurance companies. If the at-fault driver’s insurer covered their client and that client was purely negligent, the settlement cap will likely go up.