By: Matthew Tievsky
When we take on a new client, one of the first documents we try to obtain
is the police report. The police report includes plenty of useful information
– contact information for the defendant, so that we can locate him
or her; contact information for any witnesses; and the police officer's
assessment of who was at fault, which gives some indication of the strength
of our client's case. But if the police officer found the defendant
at fault, can we actually use the police report at trial? Generally, the
answer is "no."
There are a couple reasons for this. One reason is that the report itself
is "hearsay": It is a statement by someone who is not testifying.
We can cure that problem by calling the police officer to testify, but
that raises a second problem: The police officer (in almost every case)
did not see the automobile collision, and the police officer cannot testify
to what he or she did not see or hear. The officer can only testify to
what people involved in the collision said to the officer. Of course,
that can be very useful information, if the defendant admitted fault or
said something else incriminating, and for that reason sometimes we do
call police officers to testify. But the mere fact that the police officer
faulted someone in the police report (or, similarly, issued a ticket)
won't win the case and, indeed, won't even be admitted as evidence
at the trial.
If you have any questions about what effect a police report has on your
potential auto accident claim, you should contact the car accident attorneys
at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C.