Car Accident Police Reports Are Not Always Accurate
In cases stemming from car accidents, there is typically a police report prepared at the scene of the accident. The police are called after the accident, they show up, gather statements, and prepare the report. Most of the time this is an elementary exercise. While police reports are not admissible at trial (meaning the jury does not hear or see them), during the pre-suit process before a case is filed, the police report is often used as a guide by the parties and insurance companies in proving fault. However, occasionally the police report is simply wrong and police agencies typically loathe to make any changes once a report is finished.
We recently had one such case and the inaccuracies in the police report proved to be an impediment in convincing the insurance company for the tractor-trailer that struck our client’s vehicle from accepting fault for the accident. Normally, if an insurance company does not accept fault, we would just file the lawsuit and force their hand. However, in this case, we had a client who, for personal reasons, preferred the case be resolved faster than what is typically possible in litigation. So, because we always do what is in our client’s best interests, we sought out to get the insurance company to admit fault and pay for our client’s injuries but without actually having the threat of litigation in our pockets (the insurance company was not aware of that).
While our client was being treated for his back injury suffered in the accident, we allowed our client to be interviewed by the opposing insurance company to give his version of what happened in the accident. We do not usually allow for such interviews but in an effort to get the insurance company to reverse course we felt it necessary in this case. We prepared our client for the interview and provided helpful tips on how to convey his story. As expected, he did well in the interview and we were convinced the insurance company would recognize that they were hinging their evaluation on a flawed police report. Unfortunately, because insurance companies do not do the right thing unless they are forced to do so, they stuck with their initial evaluation and claimed our client was entirely at fault for the accident.
Next, we drafted the pleadings i.e., the documents filed with the Court to initiate a formal lawsuit and sent them over to the insurance company so they knew what we were planning. While our client preferred that we avoid litigation, if the insurance company refused to change their evaluation, it would mean that they would not be offering our client any money so litigation would have been the only option. While the insurance company was reviewing our pleadings, we continued to brainstorm on how we could go about changing the insurance company’s mind while avoiding the time and expense of litigation. As we have outlined previously, JB Law enjoys litigation and has experience against some of the biggest companies and insurers in the world. But not every case is a litigation candidate.
Throughout the case, JB had been reaching out to the police agency who prepared the original and mistaken police report. Unfortunately, the officer who prepared the report only a few months before had actually retired and was now living out of state. Understandably, he was not taking any more work calls! So JB kept climbing the ladder at the police agency until he got the head of the department on the phone. It was during this call that JB was able to show through a map and pictures taken after the accident that the police report was simply incorrect. At the conclusion of this conversation, the supervisor agreed to assign another officer to re-investigate what was a relatively benign auto accident. This is a rare occurrence.
A few weeks later, the new, corrected report appeared by email. This report was correct and placed all the fault on the part of the driver of the tractor-trailer. JB Law immediately sent the corrected report to the insurance company along with a letter outlining the insurance company’s ethical obligation to pay out claims that are clearly the fault of their insureds. Shortly thereafter, JB received a call from the insurance company who said they would be accepting full blame for the accident. Our client’s case settled for a healthy amount soon after.
I have handled thousands of cases involving motor vehicle accidents against all of the major insurance carriers. Do not trust your personal injury case to a firm that does not actively litigate and try cases. Do not fall victim to one of the large firms, often advertising on billboards and TV, where you will get lost in the shuffle and just become a number in a file cabinet. At JB Law, all clients are given the attention they deserve and are provided with my personal cell phone. It is not my “work” cell phone. It is my only cell phone. My clients can always reach me and always know what is going on with their case.