How Police Reports Are Used in Georgia Car Accident Legal Claims

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Key Points:

  • When a police report shows the other driver was at fault for causing your injuries, you can often use   the report or a statement from the investigating officer as evidence in your case.
  • The police report can frequently be a key factor helping you prove liability and recover compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
  • It is possible that an insurance company may reach a different conclusion than the police officer about who was to blame for the accident, so you may need to file a lawsuit to prove negligence and get compensation for your injuries.
  • If your case goes to trial, the police report is admissible as evidence because of a hearsay exception under Georgia law.
  • You, your lawyer, or those representing the insurance company can challenge information and conclusions included in a police report.

If you are involved in a car accident, you should call the police immediately for assistance, even if the damage seems minor. After the police officer arrives at the accident scene, they will collect evidence and detail the findings of their investigation in a police report.

The officer will often determine whether one driver was responsible for causing the accident or whether a driver violated some traffic law or ordinance that contributed to the collision. If the police report shows the other driver was at fault for causing your injuries, you may be able to  use  the report or obtain a statement from the officer as evidence to help you prove who was at fault  and recover compensation from their insurance carrier.

What is a Police Report?

A police report is essentially a summary that details the police officer’s investigation and conclusions about the car accident. There may be multiple police reports generated regarding the same accident if more than one officer or department responds or if the initial report needs to be supplemented with additional information.

If a police offer responded to a car accident call, the police report should include the date, time, and location of the crash as well as the names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information of the drivers involved. The report should also include interview statements the officer collects from all drivers, passengers, and eyewitnesses. The police officer will likely take notes and photographs of the accident scene, property damage, and any visible injuries caused by the collision.

In addition, the officer will usually record their observations about roadway and weather conditions and draw a diagram of the accident scene. If a service call is needed, the police officer will include that information in the report as well.

The officer may issue a traffic citation if it appears that a driver has broken a law or ordinance, and the citation will be noted in the police report. Based on the investigation, the officer may determine who they think was at fault for the accident, and those conclusions are found in the narrative portion of the police report.

How Lawyers Can Use Information in Police Reports

The facts documented in a police report, such as the date and time of the accident, may be helpful but are not usually challenged by lawyers or insurance companies. For example, it’s useful to know which insurance carrier covers the drivers involved, but this information is easy to determine from documentation gathered at the scene.

The information containing the police officer’s opinions, however, can be disputed by either side during insurance settlement negotiations or in a lawsuit. Often, these opinions can be the most useful information on the police report because they may indicate which driver was responsible for the accident.

If the police officer’s conclusions are in your favor, you or your lawyer can argue that the other driver is liable for your damages and their insurance company must pay you compensation. If the police report states you were at fault for the accident, you or an attorney may want to fight the citation or conclusions by pointing out information that might be missing or incorrect, such as video evidence that might verify your story or an inconsistency in eyewitness statements.

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Can a Police Report Be Used as Evidence in a Car Accident Claim?

Yes, police reports are often used to help prove fault in personal injury claims. If you are injured in a car accident, your first step in seeking compensation is typically to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.

Even though the police report can be powerful evidence, insurance companies will often conduct their own investigation about who was at fault before deciding whether to pay your claim or deny it. If there is a police report on file, the insurance adjuster will use it as a tool to determine what happened. Information such as traffic citations, witness statements, photos and videos from the scene, diagrams and measurements taken by the officer, and the officer’s narrative, which includes their impressions and opinions, are all important pieces of evidence the insurance adjuster examines in car accident claims.

After investigating, the insurance adjuster sometimes reaches a different conclusion than the police officer about who was to blame for the accident. Thus, even if the police report states that the other driver was at fault, their insurance company may still refuse to offer you a settlement for your claim. In this situation, you may need to file a lawsuit to prove negligence and receive compensation for your injuries.

If your case goes to trial, the police report is admissible as evidence to show what happened because of a hearsay exception under Georgia law. In other states, the typical way to “use” a police report at trial is to question the officer about what they said or wrote in the report. In Georgia, however, not only is this permitted, but the judge and jury are also allowed to examine the contents of the police report—although some portions of the report, such as insurance, nonfactual opinions, or personal information, may be redacted or removed from the report. Before trial, a judge will often determine which parts of the police report may be shown to the jury.

Can Information in a Car Accident Police Report Be Challenged?

Yes. You, your lawyer, or those representing the insurance company can challenge information included in a police report. In most cases, the police officer writing the report did not personally witness the accident, so the officer must gather evidence by investigating the accident scene and interviewing witnesses. 

The information an investigating officer collects may be incorrect or incomplete, or they may reach the wrong conclusion—even after considering accurate facts. A police officer might also have a bias against one or more individuals involved in the accident.  Any driver,  passenger, and even the insurance company lawyer, has the right to challenge a police report either in court or with the investigating police officer or agency directly.  Keep in mind, however, it may be difficult to persuade an investigating officer to change their report.

Do Auto Insurance Companies Review Police Accident Reports?

Yes. Insurance companies typically use the police report as a starting point to determine whether a covered driver is at fault and assess how much to pay on an insurance claim. Though carriers investigate the accident independently and may reach a different conclusion, insurance adjusters strongly consider the information in the report when they are assessing evidence in a claim.

Is Having a Police Report Required to Receive Compensation for a Car Accident Claim?

No, but not having a police report makes it harder. A police report or incident report reflects what happened and who was involved in the car accident from the perspective of an officer experienced in handling such matters.

Having a police officer collect evidence at the scene and speak with witnesses immediately after the accident helps to establish a credible and accurate record of the events and may prevent certain evidence from being lost or overlooked.

The information included in a police report can help prove that you were injured through no fault of your own, which is essential for recovering compensation from the insurance company. If you are involved in a car accident, you should call the police; however, if this isn’t possible, you should gather as much information as you can about the other driver, any witnesses, vehicle damage and injuries (photos and videos are helpful), and the conditions at the accident scene.

Challenges That Come with Using a Police Report as Car Accident Evidence

You may have some challenges to overcome if you want to use the police report as evidence in your car accident claim. Depending on how the police report was written and who the officer believes was at fault, the insurance carrier may use the officer’s conclusions to deny your claim.. Even if the report states you were not at fault, the way it’s written may leave room for the insurance company to reach a different conclusion, which could make a successful settlement negotiation difficult.

In addition, you will want to get a copy of the police report as soon as possible to pursue compensation for your damages; however, it can take several days or longer to get a copy, which can cause a delay in negotiating your claim with the insurance company. To obtain a copy of the report, you may pick it up in person at the police department that responded to the accident or online via a website called BuyCrash.com, a service that contracts with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

If you can’t locate the report by name (police officers sometimes misspell the drivers’ names), call the law enforcement agency that responded to the accident to get the report number. You may also request an accident report using the Georgia Open Records Act. You can submit your request to a local state patrol post or to the Georgia Department of Public Safety Open Records Unit.

Understanding the contents of the police report can also be a challenge. Police officers use various codes to indicate who or what factors may have caused the accident, such as driver condition, vehicle condition, and visibility. Occasionally, the report will contain mistakes or misleading information that can create confusion.

Police reports are sometimes heavily redacted, which means the police will black out certain personal information before the report is given to you. Your attorney can get an unredacted report so you can have all the necessary information to move forward with your claim, whether through insurance settlement negotiations or a lawsuit. If you have any other questions about police reports, call The Millar Law Firm so our experienced attorneys can help!

Consultations Are Free at The Millar Law Firm

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a car accident, make sure you seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer. We can help. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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