Your police accident report is an important document. It contains essential information about the parties involved in the wreck, the road and weather conditions that existed at the time of the crash, and the officer’s observations of the crash scene. Information about witnesses and what they told police may also find their way into crash reports.
Most police officers who complete these reports attempt to do a careful job. Nonetheless, mistakes can appear in them, either because of a haphazard investigation or through clerical mistakes.
Errors in the accident report should be taken seriously, as they can make their way into a lawsuit, and insurance companies will use them in processing your claim.
By acting quickly and documenting your assertions, some errors in accident reports can be corrected with minimal effort. Other errors can be more challenging to address, and you may need to enlist the help of an Ohio car accident lawyer.
How Police Complete Accident Reports
When law enforcement officers are called to the scene of a crash, they will follow the same general steps. These steps help ensure officers conduct a thorough investigation and gain an accurate picture of the crash:
Gather Information from the Involved Parties
The responding officer will gather the names of those who are involved in the crash and information about what vehicles they were driving. They will also collect insurance information from these involved parties and record the damage they see on each vehicle.
Finally, officers may gather any statements about the crash from the drivers involved. If you and the other driver are conscious and able to speak, they complete this step by speaking directly with the involved parties. If not, they will rely on what they can see to describe the damage and injuries.
Talk to Any Witnesses at the Scene
If there are bystanders who observed the crash happen, officers may speak with them about their observations. Law enforcement officers may interview witnesses one at a time so that there is less of a chance that they change their stories to match one another or provide details that they themselves did not see.
Diagram the Accident Scene and Form Conclusions
Responding officers will take photographs and measurements of the accident to show where the vehicles involved came to rest, the location of skid marks and debris, and other important features of the scene. Depending on the complexity of the crash, the diagram may or may not be to scale.
Based on all the available information, the officer will then reach a conclusion about the causes and the contributing factors that led to the crash.
You Found Errors in the Report — Now What?
Suppose that you have reviewed the crash report, either alone or with your personal injury lawyer, and you believe there are errors in the report. Your options for fixing them will depend in large part on whether the officer made factual errors or whether you disagree with the opinions and conclusions of the officer.
The Officer Got the Facts Wrong
If the error in the report has to do with facts about the scene or what individuals said, you may be able to correct the report by speaking with the officer directly about the matter. Be polite and do not assume the officer purposefully lied or was attempting to do something nefarious.
In addressing factual inaccuracies, be prepared to provide the officer with documentation or evidence that supports the correction.
For example, suppose that the officer got a statement from your passenger wrong. You and your passenger should visit the officer together. If that is not possible, consider having your passenger prepare a sworn affidavit that points out the incorrect information and provides a corrected statement.
Similarly, if the officer did not correctly document your injuries or the damage to your vehicle, you can provide medical records or estimates from a repair shop to support your claim that the accident report is inaccurate.
If you have difficulty correcting factual errors or if the officer is unwilling to listen to you, you may need to speak to a car accident lawyer and get their help.
You Disagree with the Officer’s Conclusion
Suppose instead that the officer faulted you for causing the crash, claiming that you were distracted or that you violated a right-of-way law. An officer’s opinion will be much more difficult to challenge, especially when there is no objective evidence to support your point of view.
If you do have witnesses or sworn statements, you can try to approach the officer with these and request that the officer reconsider their opinions and conclusions.
Be prepared to meet some resistance from the officer, as you are essentially calling their judgment and professional opinions into question. Some officers may feel challenged by your actions and become defensive.
Nonetheless, you should remain polite with the officer. If the officer refuses to alter their conclusions or opinions, ask what, if any, evidence might persuade them to reconsider their impressions of the crash. For this step, it is often a good idea to reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer in Ohio for help.
Do Not Delay in Seeking a Corrected Accident Report
No matter the nature of the error, do not delay in trying to fix an incorrect accident report. Once you receive your accident report, look it over and take action on any incorrect items right away. The longer you wait to fix a mistake in an accident report, the more difficult it becomes to do so.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been involved in a car wreck, reach out to Slater & Zurz for help with your next steps. Contact us right away, and we can help you obtain a copy of your accident report.
We will go over that report with you, identify any errors, and help correct them so that you are well-prepared to pursue a successful insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.