- When a police report shows the other driver was at fault for causing your injuries, you may be able to use some or all the report or testimony from the investigating officer as evidence to prove your case.
- Georgia police reports are often used by car accident lawyers or those representing the insurance company to argue fault and as part of the settlement demand.
- The insurance company can challenge information and conclusions included in a police report, and when this happens, a lawsuit may be needed.
- In a Georgia personal injury trial, the police report may be admissible as evidence as business record.
Insurance companies and car accident lawyers rely on crash reports to help make early decisions about fault and damage when evaluating injury cases. This Georgia legal guide can be a resource if you need to make an insurance claim after a car, truck, or motorcycle accident.
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.
Georgia Police Reports and Your Legal Claims: At the scene, the officer will often determine which driver was responsible for causing the accident or whether any drivers violated traffic laws or ordinances that contributed to the collision. At this stage, this is simply the opinion of the police officer. However, insurance adjusters and injury attorneys usually take these opinions seriously.
If the police report shows the other driver was at fault for causing your injuries, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to use this conclusion to pay your settlement demand. However, police reports themselves are not binding in a Court of law, and both insurance companies and personal injury lawyers can challenge the contents and findings of a motor vehicle accident report.
What Exactly Is in a Georgia Police Report?
In Georgia, a police report is a summary that details the police officer’s investigation, findings, 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 officer 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 may sometimes take photographs of the accident scene and damage to the cars and trucks. However, even if the police do not take photos, police and law enforcement body cameras and patrol car cams often capture visible evidence and witness interviews.
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.
Police reports usually contain the identification of the drivers, description of the vehicles, who owns the cars and/or trucks, and the insurance companies for each driver.
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 You or an Injury Lawyer Can Use Information in Police Reports
The facts documented in a police report, such as the date and time of the accident and how the crash happened, are generally helpful to lawyers and insurance companies to preview who would win if an accident case went to trial. If fault, or liability, appears clear, it is often possible to negotiate settlement compensation with the insurance adjuster.
The facts and findings in a police report are not always challenged by lawyers or insurance companies—but they can be. For example, an insurance adjuster may argue that the officer’s conclusion is incorrect. Or perhaps the at-fault driver might change their mind and start blaming you, the weather, an animal, or some act of God for causing the crash. If this happens, the police report and the officer’s accounts can be used as evidence to show what was originally said at the accident scene.
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, typically, your first step in seeking compensation is to file an auto insurance 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 insurance adjusters examine in car accident claims.
After investigating, an adjuster may reach 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.
In some states, the typical way to “use” a police report at trial is to question the officer about what they wrote in the report. But under Georgia’s hearsay exception, the police report is admissible in a trial as evidence to show what happened. Not only that, but the judge and jury may be allowed to examine the contents of the police report—although some portions, such as insurance, nonfactual opinions, or personal information, may be redacted or removed. 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 drivers, passengers, and even the insurance company lawyers have the right to challenge a police report either in court or with the investigating police officer or agency directly. However, it may be difficult to persuade an investigating officer to change their report.
Do Auto Insurance Companies Review Police Accident Reports?
covered driver is at fault and decide whether to pay 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 putting a settlement value on a car accident injury or property damage claim.
Is Having a Police Report Required to Receive Compensation for a Car Accident Claim?
No, but not having a police report can make it harder. A police report or incident report helps insurance adjusters and car accident attorneys understand what happened from the perspective of an experienced police officer.
By calling the police and having an officer collect evidence at the scene and speak with witnesses immediately after the accident, you preserve evidence and establish a record of the events. This may keep people honest and refresh recollections later, as well as potentially prevent evidence from being lost, forgotten, or overlooked.
Additionally, Georgia law requires drivers involved in a car accident to make a police report any time the damage to the vehicles involved is at least $500.
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 it is not possible to call the police or have them respond, you should gather as much information as you can about the other driver, any witnesses, vehicle damage, 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, an insurance carrier can still use the report or the officer’s conclusions to deny your claim. Even if the report states you were not at fault, an insurance company may still argue for a different conclusion, making a successful settlement negotiation difficult.
You will usually want to get a copy of the police report as soon as possible to pursue compensation for your damages. It can take several days or longer to get a copy because some officers and departments do not finalize their reports for up to a week.
How Long Do You Have to Make or File a Police Report After a Car Accident?
There is no set time; however, it is best to have the police called to the scene and a report made immediately. Additionally, if the damage to the cars is greater or equal to $500, you are legally required to report the accident to the police.
If a report is made later, often the insurance company places less value on the report because it will not usually contain or document an on-scene investigation.
Why Is Some Information in My Georgia Accident or Incident Report Blacked Out?
Police reports are sometimes heavily redacted, meaning the police will blackout certain personal information, before giving the report to you. Your attorney can get an unredacted report so you can have all the information required 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.
I would highly recommend this firm and staff to everyone, they were great with my case.