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Mistakes Police Commonly Make at Car Accident Scenes

Published January 5, 2016 by Bruce Millar


When police arrive at the scene of a traffic accident, they often confront a chaotic situation: injured motorists needing emergency treatment, angry drivers disputing who was at fault, wrecked cars blocking the road, traffic backed up. Police have to obtain medical treatment for those who are injured and try to make sense of how an accident occurred and who was responsible.

It’s no wonder that police officers sometimes make mistakes when handling a traffic accident. Still, it’s very frustrating for those involved. You may have noticed multiple errors in the police report describing your accident. But a police error at an accident scene should not prevent you from pursuing a personal injury claim in Georgia.

An experienced accident attorney at The Millar Law Firm is available to review the specific facts of your Georgia car accident, explain your legal options and pursue compensation on your behalf, if appropriate. We have helped many victims of traffic accidents caused by other motorists obtain compensation to move forward after a serious injury.

Police in Georgia are trained to fill out a Georgia uniform accident report. Police are required to write a detailed report reconstructing how a traffic accident occurred. A police report is important in documenting key facts about an accident, including statements from motorists and witnesses, contact information and the investigating officer’s observations about the accident scene. But the police accident report may contain coding errors or errors of fact.

Insurance Claims Adjusters Focus on Police Reports

Police Report InsuranceInsurance adjusters will review the police report carefully and insurance companies may rely on it to assign fault in the accident. For that reason, it is important to obtain a copy of the report and review it for accuracy if you have been in an accident.

You can purchase a copy of the accident report from BuyCrash.com, a website that contracts with the Georgia Department of Transportation. You may contact the police agency that handled the accident directly, but they generally will refer you to BuyCrash.com. The accident report will be filed by the names of the drivers involved. Contact the officer promptly if the report is wrong and try to clarify the information before the report is finalized.

Do Police Make Mistakes at the Car Accident Scene?

Errors generally fall into two categories: errors of fact and disputed statements by witnesses or others involved in a car accident. Errors of fact may range from misspellings of names and addresses of those involved to incorrect insurance information to misidentification of vehicles or drivers.

The accident report overlay contains the number codes used to note who and what factors contributed to an accident. Coding errors such as transposed numbers are quite common on police reports. Officers often check the wrong box or make a clerical error in their haste to complete a report. Some errors are minor and some are more serious. Police can get confused and misidentify which driver was driving the car that caused the accident.

Disputed statements made by other drivers or a witness may be more difficult to change. The police may include statements from the other driver or witnesses that express their opinion of how the accident occurred, even if the accounts conflict with your description of how the accident occurred. You may strongly disagree with the other driver’s account of how an accident occurred and feel it makes the report essentially a false car accident police report. But the conflicting statements are a matter in dispute. Police are unlikely to delete the statement or change these statements unless there are errors of fact.

What Happens if I Go to the Hospital Without a Police Interview?

Going to hospital without Police InterviewIt is important to receive prompt medical treatment after a car accident. If you are taken to the hospital before giving a statement to police, the police may come to the hospital to interview you if you are able or contact you to obtain a statement if the accident is serious.

The police often gather statements from accident victims while they are receiving treatment in an emergency room and are in pain or under the influence of powerful pain medication.  These are less than ideal conditions for an interview.  Motorists’ recall of the accident under such conditions may be hazy and their statements may be inaccurate or incomplete.

You may think of other facts later that you wish to add to the police report. Police reports can be amended or expanded with a supplemental report to address errors. You can often get errors of fact corrected by simply providing the officer with the correct information. It is best to contact the police promptly and get the report corrected before it is finalized.

Quote of a police report

You also can write a statement describing what occurred and ask the officer to attach it to the report as a supplemental record. Whether the officer does so is typically at their discretion.

The police may inaccurately characterize the injuries of those involved in an accident or understate the extent of an accident victim’s injuries. Some injuries take time to appear and are not apparent immediately after an accident. Any descriptions of injuries in a police report are general observations. Police are not trained doctors.  They do not do a physical examination of those in a car accident.

How Courts Can Overturn an Error

The police may make an error of law, basing an action or decision on a mistaken understanding or misinterpretation of what the applicable law says. Some of these may be reasonable mistakes, but they can affect the outcome of a case or determination of who is at fault.

The police may incorrectly assume that you caused the accident based on a misinterpretation of the law. A court typically hears and resolves these kinds of errors of law. It is helpful to have a skilled attorney who knows Georgia law to present the matter to the court for consideration.

Mistakes at the scene of an accident can cause problems later when you make a claim for compensation for your injuries. It’s important to be aware of common missteps that police may make at the scene of a traffic accident. A Georgia accident attorney can help you review an accident report and in some cases help you get errors in the report corrected.

Contact The Millar Law Firm: Experienced and Trust Accident Lawyers

At The Millar Law Firm, our attorneys focus on helping people who have been injured in car accidents in Georgia caused by the negligence of other drivers deal with issues such as who should pay for the medical bills and how much the case is worth. Contact an attorney at The Millar Law Firm for a free evaluation of your accident or use our online contact form to reach an attorney.

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For more information, the team at The Millar Law Firm are here to help. With years of experience helping victims of car accidents get the compensation they deserve, the team of attorneys at The Millar Law Firm can help you too. Call today!

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