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What Can You Do If The Police Report Has Mistakes and Wrongly Finds You At Fault for a Car Accident
It is not uncommon for our attorneys to hear from potential clients who call in complaining that the police report/crash report is wrong or has errors. Specifically, these individuals state that they were wrongly found at fault for causing a car accident when they did not. Other times, individuals complain that the police report fails to report that they were injured or document their injury complaints. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. These individuals are typically overwhelmed, upset and have the following questions.
- Why does the police report say I am at fault for causing the car accident?
- What can I do to correct the police report so the other side is found at fault for causing the car accident?
- Can I recover for my injuries if I am found at fault for causing a car accident?
Why a Police Report May Wrongly Find You at Fault For Causing A Car Accident
A police report or crash report may wrongly find someone at fault for a car accident because the investigating officer is making a decision with inadequate information and training. The officer has no personal knowledge of what happened. The officer will take statements at the scene and usually base his decision on what he believes happened. By doing so, that law enforcement officer, who likely has no personal knowledge of what actually happened, may be preventing you from recovering a single dime for your injuries.
that law enforcement officer, who likely has no personal knowledge of what actually happened, may be preventing you from recovering a single dime for your injuries.
Some police officers are able to observe things at a car accident scene that allow them to make factual findings as to fault. For example, skid marks, debris from the vehicles, damage to the vehicles, etc. Some officers have accident reconstruction training that will allow them to make determinations based on this evidence. However, most do not.
If the officer is simply basing his findings of fault, on statements provided by the individuals involved in the car accident, then those findings may not be reliable. Specifically, if both sides say the other is at fault, then the officer is simply picking a side and making a credibility determination when it is improper to do so. However, this happens all too often.
Police officers are also busy and tend to treat car accidents that do not result in major injuries as insignificant. If someone is not critically injured, the officer may just go through the motions when collecting evidence and putting together the police report. The officer may be more concerned with investigating crimes that he or she believes is a more serious and important use of his or her time. At the same time, the officer may even be upset that he or she has to do the paperwork associated with responding to a car accident that he or she views as not serious.
The attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers, LLC have viewed thousands of police reports. The majority of those reports have errors in them. Even if the finding of fault is correct, the report may contain other errors, wrong information or omissions. Some of the typical information that is wrongly reported in police reports or crash reports include the following:
- Incorrect description of physical damage to the vehicles
- Placing passengers or drivers of the vehicles in the wrong car
- Errors in the crash diagram
- Mistakes in the narrative report including mixing up the units (cars)
- Misreporting what a driver or witness said regarding the car accident
- Failing to include the necessary information or owner information
- Wrongly reporting a driver or passenger’s injury complaints
- Wrongly concluding that no one was injured or that there were no reports of injury
- Making mistakes as to the speed of the vehicles
- Wrongly reporting physical evidence at the scene or failing to examine it at all
- Failing to include any statement from one of the drivers or passengers because of injury or unavailability
Pictured below is an example of a typical error in a police report or crash report. The example contains two consecutive pages from an actual police report from a client we represented. You can see on the first page that the officer marked that neither driver did anything improper and that there was no violation. You can see on the second page that the officer issued a citation to the at-fault driver for a violation of A.R.S. 28-701A. This is Arizona’s basic speed law. Clearly, the first page contains an error and discrepancy. Police reports and crash reports often contain these types of errors.
What You Can Do to Contest the Findings in a Police Report or Crash Report?
Unfortunately, there is little you can do to contest the findings in a police report or crash report with the police officer or law enforcement officer who wrote it. You can go to the agency and department that wrote the report and ask that a supplemental report be filed. However, police departments and law enforcement agencies usually do not want to be burdened or bothered with these requests.
If you have new information and evidence that would be important to the conclusions in the police report, then you should attempt to do so. However, this new information or evidence has to be significant and change the outcome of the police report. If that information or evidence only corrects a minor detail or proves an insignificant mistake, then this is not worth doing. The law enforcement agency or police department may not even bother correcting it.
If there is a serious and major mistake in the police report or crash report, then you should contact the officer who wrote it and point it out. If it is a serious or major mistake, the officer should issue a supplemental report correcting it. If the officer is not responsive to your efforts to contact him or her or does not act, then you should ask for that officer’s supervising sergeant. You should then notify the sergeant of the issue and any lack of communication from the officer.
It is best if you send these communications in writing so you have a clear record of your efforts and any failures by the officer or law enforcement agency to respond. Request email addresses for the officer and sergeant. Once you have the email addresses, send your communications by email to both. This provides a direct line of communication. It eliminates an excuse from the officer or sergeant that they did not receive your message. When you send letters by regular mail, there is the potential for this excuse or the possibility that the mailing is lost or wrongly routed at the police department or law enforcement agency.
Below is an email sent by Scottsdale Injury Lawyers, LLC on behalf of an injured client who was the victim of a hit and run accident. It shows how we worked to create a record documenting the failures of the officer and the importance of him doing his job. It also shows how we copied the sergeant so he would know what his officer was doing or failing to do.
Can I Recover for My Injuries if the Police Report Finds Me At Fault?
Typically, you can not recover for your injuries if you are found at fault for causing a car accident. There are exceptions to this general rule. For example, if you are an employee who is working at the time of the car accident, you can recover through the Worker’s Compensation system. If you have a Medical Payments (“MedPay”) policy on your own automobile insurance, you may be able to recover the costs of your medical expenses. However, if you are found at fault, you will not be able to recover from the other driver or the other driver’s insurance company.
If you were wrongly found at fault for causing a car accident, there may still be ways to prove what really happened. Most modern vehicles contain electronic data recorders. These recorders can be thought of as the equivalent of “black boxes” on airplanes. These systems record important information regarding the vehicles just prior to and during the impact of a significant crash. These recorders can record and have data on everything from miles per hour, RPMs, braking times, seatbelt engagement, air bag deployment and other vehicle system functioning that could help you prove your case.
Make no mistake about it—contesting the findings of fault in a police report is an uphill battle. It can be done, but it takes great effort and skill. It is not something the average person can do alone. In addition, it is not likely that an adverse insurance company will reverse its course after a finding of fault in a police report without being forced to do so. This usually requires the filing of a lawsuit and a protracted battle in court.
Make no mistake about it—contesting the findings of fault in a police report is an uphill battle. It can be done, but it takes great effort and skill.
Our firm has successfully contested findings of fault in a police report. However, the cases where the amount of effort required to do so are few and far between. In order to justify the amount of work and expenses associated with doing so, someone must have sustained very serious injuries. Soft tissue injuries like sprains, strains, bruising and whiplash are not enough.
To justify the work involved in going against the findings of a police report, the injuries must be serious and result in permanent disability, surgery, extensive medical treatment or significant wage loss. Even if there is a serious injury, the case may still be one where the effort involved does not justify the amount of time and effort. Each situation must be analyzed and decided on a case by case basis and is highly fact specific.
Contact Scottsdale Injury Lawyers Today For Help With Your Car Accident or Injury Case
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident and suffered injuries, contact Scottsdale Injury Lawyers, LLC today. Our firm has extensive experience helping individuals with car accident claims against insurance companies. An injury attorney is available now for a free consultation. If we take your case, it costs you nothing and we do not charge a fee unless we recover for you.
About the author: The content on this page was written by Scottsdale personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Tony Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout Arizona and California. He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association, Scottsdale Bar Association, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Consumer Attorneys of California, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.