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Carman, Bevington & Finegan Blog

A Closer Look at Police Accident Reports

After years of steady decline, in 2021, the number of fatal car crashes hit a 16-year high. During pandemic lockdowns, when roads were almost empty and traffic enforcement was almost nothing, many drivers picked up some bad habits. Like most bad habits, bad driving habits, like speeding and driving while intoxicated, are easy to form and hard to break. The resulting injuries in car crashes include head injuries, spine injuries, and other wounds that, if not fatal, are usually permanent.

If driver negligence caused an accident, a Brandon personal injury attorney can obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. This compensation is available if the victim/plaintiff proves negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, evidence is critical in these cases, and the police accident report is a critical part of this evidence.

Police Report Basics

Who writes the police report? The answer to this critical question varies in different jurisdictions and under different circumstances.

Many times, especially in non-fatal collisions, the highest-ranking responding officer writes the police report. These reports are based solely on the physical evidence at the scene, the statements of the people involved in the crash, and the input of any witnesses who voluntarily come forward. That is not much to go on.

Other times, especially in fatal collisions, several law enforcement agencies collaborate in the investigation. This investigation sometimes includes input from an accident reconstruction professional who reviews the evidence and offers an expert opinion. These reports are more thorough, but they still have some holes. For example, in a fatal collision case, the report only includes one driver’s statement. Since we remember things selectively, this recollection is often inaccurate.

In some jurisdictions, principal parties in the accident may file contributing police reports which include their side of the story. Some jurisdictions also allow principal parties to file police reports if a police officer did not file one, usually because no police officer arrived at the scene. That is especially true in fall injury claims.

Supplemental reports are important, but they are also incomplete, mostly because they are usually only based on evidence immediately available at the scene.

Additional Evidence

Because of these issues, the police report alone may not be sufficient to obtain maximum compensation in a car crash, fall, or other accident. So, a Brandon personal injury attorney must look elsewhere for evidence. Fortunately, several sources are available.

Medical records often substitute for police reports, at least in part. Hospital records usually include a brief narrative explaining the purpose of the visit, such as a fall or motor vehicle collision. However, this information is often sketchy at best, and it is usually only based on the victim’s recollection.

Electronic evidence is often a better supplement. Most stores and other public buildings have security cameras. These cameras often capture footage of falls. Additionally, most cars and trucks have Event Data Recorders. These gadgets resemble the black box flight data recorders inside commercial jets.

To obtain this critical evidence, attorneys must often overcome some legal hurdles. The EDR is a good example. Florida has very strong vehicle information privacy laws. So, attorneys usually need court orders before they can inspect and download EDR data. This download has some technical issues as well. An attorney needs additional tools beyond a screwdriver and a laptop.

So, the evidence collection process is often long and time-consuming. However, it is also necessary to obtain maximum compensation.

Reach Out to a Diligent Hillsborough County Car Accident Attorney

Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Brandon, contact Carman, Bevington & Finegan, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.