“GET THE POLICE REPORT!” It is a statement that we hear quite often from clients whenever there is an auto accident and there is a dispute as to who is at fault. And while a police report is important to your claim, some may be surprised to learn that a report is not the end all be all for your case.
Yes…police reports do serve as a very useful piece of evidence after a car accident. They identify parties and witnesses, provide narratives and statements of what happened, help in establishing fault, and provide basic information surrounding the incident. Sometimes, officers will even state which party they believe is responsible for the accident and if any citations were issued as a result. Essentially, these reports can be used effectively in settlement negotiations with the insurance company as they contain a significant number of facts and typically paint a clear picture of the accident.
However, accident reports written by police officers and any other investigating authorities are considered “hearsay” in Louisiana courts and are often inadmissible.
Hearsay is an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of something.
The officer is called to the scene after the accident has already occurred, so they did not witness the accident or have firsthand knowledge of it. They are not writing the report with complete accuracy; they are simply just recounting what they have been told by the parties and witnesses. Now, if the officer witnessed the crash firsthand, her statement would be admissible in court because they have that intimate knowledge.
For example, an unidentified witness tells the police officer that the driver who caused the accident ran a stop light… but that witness cannot be located to testify in court later on. Because the officer did not witness the accident himself, the statement to the officer about the at-fault driver becomes hearsay.
BUT.. just because statements contained in a police report may not stand up in trial, it is still crucial to call 911 to report the accident immediately! Take photos and videos of the accident scene before vehicles are moved, if possible. If there are witnesses to the accident, ask for their names and contact information before they leave! Do NOT discuss the accident with anyone other than the police officer and your attorney because anything you say could be used against you if your statement of the facts changes even slightly.
WGNO (ABC affiliate) Legal Analyst, Cliff Cardone, has helped clients throughout all of Louisiana with their personal injury needs for over 40 years. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call us today for a free consultation! PHONE CARDONE at 504-522-3333, 225-706-3920 (Baton Rouge office), 1-888-892-2736 (toll free) or email us at email@example.com.