While careless motorists do on occasion admit to responsibility for causing a collision, in many cases a negligent driver will not confess that he or she was at fault. Even if they do, their attorney may later claim you were partly to blame. Sometimes drivers who admit to fault later recant their statements and deny that they were at fault, even if they were clearly in the wrong and had rear-ended you, cut you off, or were otherwise clearly the one who caused the accident. Even in cases where the other driver says “I’m sorry” at the scene, his or her attorney or insurance company can still deny liability on the ground that the other driver’s statement was made under a state of nervousness and in any event is not a legal determination of liability. Many times, depending on the circumstances, the other driver may think they were at fault yet it can later be shown by the other driver’s attorney that, from a purely legal standpoint, you were also partly to blame. For example, the other driver’s attorney may be able to point to police records indicating that you were going over the speed limit, obtain cell phone records showing you were talking on your cell phone or texting, or uncover other evidence that you were distracted from giving your full attention to the road.
Most lawyers and insurance companies will wait until they have reviewed the police officer’s Traffic Accident Report as part of their overall assessment of the vehicle collision and the fault of the drivers. The police report is given great weight by judges and juries and therefore is an important factor that must be considered by personal injury attorneys and insurance companies in assessing fault and liability. Police officers are widely regarded as experts on the subject of traffic accident investigation. After all, who has more experience going out to the scene of an accident and investigating the circumstances and writing up a report? Police officers do this day in and day out and therefore are widely accepted as experts on the subject of traffic accidents. Their police reports, or Traffic Accident Reports, carry great weight in the determination of fault.
Now police reports are not always correct and they are not the only evidence of a vehicle collision. If there were other drivers in your car, their testimony will be important. If there were any eye witnesses who personally witnessed the accident and you were able to get their phone numbers and they can corroborate your position and testify in your favor, then they will be able to strengthen your case. The frequent problem, however, with witness testimony is that often witnesses can be unreliable for a whole host of reasons or their memories may be foggy or may fade with time. This again makes the Traffic Accident Report a very important gauge for determining fault.
One rather frustrating issue with police reports or Traffic Accident Reports is that frequently they are not available for several weeks. Still, there are ways to ascertain the police officer’s impressions (which will end up in the officer’s report) immediately after an accident. Your personal injury attorney may be able to speak with the investigating officer. Your attorney can also contact the insurance company for the other driver and find out what statements the other driver has made to their own insurer. Often the other driver will tell their insurance company the same thing they told the investigating officer, so you’ll know what to expect to see in the Traffic Accident Report once it becomes available.