Police reports are good for a lot of things. They help injured plaintiffs gather facts, build a case, and support their claim during negotiation. But there’s one thing a police report can’t provide: evidence.
Police Reports and the Hearsay Rule
With a few exceptions, courts generally will not allow a police report as evidence in a trial. That surprises a lot of people. After all, a police report seems like it would be about as “official” as a document gets, and the officer who wrote it represents a voice of authority.
In courts, though, police reports are considered hearsay. In legal parlance, “hearsay” refers to any statement made outside of a courtroom. Because the judge wasn’t there to test the accuracy of the statement at the time it was made, the court can’t accept the statement at face value during a trial. Accordingly, hearsay is inadmissible as evidence (unless one of several exceptions apply).
Why are police reports considered hearsay in personal injury cases? Let’s look at the most common scenario in which this issue arises: auto accidents.
In the typical car crash, one driver hits another. Then, after the collision, the police are called. Sometime later, an officer will arrive, assess the aftermath, and document those findings in a report. But in most cases, the officer doesn’t personally witness the crash — nor do the judge, jury, or attorneys.
Courts want to be absolutely sure that they aren’t misled by evidence that might be misleading, inaccurate, or based on questionable assumptions. So, in fairness to all the parties, juries often won’t even look at the official accident report.
Official Accident Reports Are Still Important
Even though they don’t qualify as admissible evidence, police reports are still among the most important documents in personal injury cases — especially auto accident claims.
Police reports can help a Florida personal injury attorney put together a factually comprehensive argument on your behalf, clearly demonstrating what happened and which party is at fault.
Often times, we hire our own accident reconstruction expert to help us prove liability. The accident reconstruction expert is often times an engineer or retired homicide investigator. As an expert witness he can rely on the police report and use certain measurements and findings in his analysis.
Even if the report might be considered hearsay in court, the insurance companies representing at-fault drivers have a much harder time denying responsibility in good faith when they’re facing a police report that clearly assigns liability to the driver they insure. Accident reports can, then, prove very effective in negotiation.
Talk to a Miami Auto Accident Attorney
If you have questions about using police reports as evidence in personal injury cases — or if you’ve been injured in a car crash in Florida and need legal guidance — a Miami auto accident attorney at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help. Contact our office today for a free consultation.