Accident Reports and Personal Injury Claims
After a motor vehicle accident in Houston, TX, law enforcement responds and fills out accident reports. When you sustain an injury in an accident, this police report is a valuable tool to help you seek compensation.
Oftentimes, insurance companies rely on an accident report when they want to settle claims out of court. This is because they typically use the report to establish liability. Alternatively, when there are mistakes or errors in the police report, your police injury attorney helps you challenge it.
When you sustain an injury in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you have legal options. With the right advocate on your side, you have the potential to hold the liable accountable and secure the compensation you need to move on. Schedule a free case evaluation with our auto accident attorneys today to learn more about your options.
Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (CR-3)
After an auto accident in Texas, police file accident reports to establish a record of the incident. Officially, the state refers to these as a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (CR-3). When you hire a personal injury attorney after a motor vehicle accident, one of the first things we do is request a copy of this report.
Due to the confidential nature of these reports, they are not available online to be viewed by the general public. However, it is possible to obtain a copy of your accident report.
There are two different means by which to obtain a copy of your CR-3.
Accident Reports: The Process
Not every accident requires a report. For example, a minor collision in a parking lot that results in a dent but no injury likely doesn’t require a report. However, these reports help to protect innocent individuals when people decide to change their stories later.
Here are a few incidents in which accident reports are essential.
- Accidents that involve a severe injury or wrongful death
- The accident disables a vehicle
- Hit and run accidents
- The other driver does not have car insurance
- One driver appears intoxicated
- The other driver doesn’t have a valid drivers’ license
In certain cases, negligent drivers try to avoid calling the police after an auto accident. Often, this is because they worry about insurance premiums. Alternatively, they might not have insurance or be driving with a suspended license.
With these cases, they tend to attempt to cover the costs out of pocket. Before you agree to this, though, remember what is at stake. Occasionally, drivers who avoid calling the police attempt to change their story later. Potentially, they may even claim you caused the accident.
Without a police report, it’s one person’s word against the other’s.
When law enforcement arrives at the scene of an accident, they typically investigate and complete an accident report. They gather the contact information of the people involved and conduct an initial investigation of the incident.
In minor accidents, the investigation tends to be brief. However, when an auto accident involves criminal activity (DWI) or a serious injury, they dig deeper.
Typically, a police investigation includes the following.
- Gathering those involved, witnesses, and any video evidence
- Conducting interviews with the drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or any witnesses
- Documentation of relevant information
- Additional information they observe in their investigation
Additionally, an officer ensures that all the parties involved exchange contact and insurance information. In some cases, accident reports involve a diagram of the event. This shows the location of the collision, the directions the drivers traveled, and the locations of any traffic signals.
When a driver claims a vehicle defect caused the accident, the police officer records the claim of defective equipment. Examples of vehicle defects include the following.
- Defective brakes
- Airbag defect
- Seatbelt defect
- Defective reclining mechanism
Accident Reports in Personal Injury Claims
Generally speaking, accident reports establish fault and liability for an accident. However, these police reports aren’t always accurate or thorough. When you hire a motor vehicle accident attorney, you have an advocate to fight the claims when the report does not reflect the truth of the accident.
Additionally, an accident report helps your attorney negotiate and settle your personal injury claim. When the police report shows that the other driver is at fault, their insurance company is often willing to settle. This avoids lengthy litigation.
When parties refuse to settle, the case goes to trial. In the trial, accident reports hold less weight. However, they provide a basis for testimony and fault that guide the police who filed the report.
Typically, the officer reports what they saw, the results of their investigation, and what they recorded in their report. Still, it’s important to remember that they only witness the aftermath of a collision.
Police Reports in Negotiations
While a police report is not admissible in court, they are useful in settlement negotiations. This is especially true for car accidents. Prior to filing a personal injury claim, your auto accident attorney helps you gather accident reports, medical reports, and any other relevant records.
In certain cases, we also draft a demand letter to the insurance company. In this letter, we summarize the facts of the claim, detail your injuries, and demand a figure that represents your current and future expenses and losses (damages).
When a police report indicates the other driver was at fault, the report is an effective tool in negotiating the settlement. Typically, the insurance companies lend a significant level of weight to these reports. With the right leverage, you have the potential to gain the compensation you deserve.
Accident Reports in Court
Oftentimes, people wonder why they can’t always use an accident report in court. With personal injury law, courts consider accident reports “hearsay.” Usually, this is inadmissible evidence unless it meets certain exceptions.
Consider the following scenario.
Madeline testifies in court. She claims that Hannah said Dylan tripped and injured Paul. Madeline’s statement constitutes hearsay because she does not have direct knowledge of the incident.
However, the statement is not hearsay when Madeline witnesses Dylan tripping Paul. In this instance, Madeline has direct knowledge. This makes her statement subject to cross-examination from the other party.
So, Why Are Police Reports Hearsay?
Generally speaking, accident reports are hearsay because the police officer does not witness the accident. In the majority of cases, the officer only sees the aftermath of the collision.
Let’s take another look at the above situation with a slight change.
Dylan rear-ends Paul’s car. Hannah, a pedestrian, witnessed the accident. She tells the police officer that Dylan was speeding when he hit Paul’s car. The officer takes notes of this conversation and enters them into the report.
Because Hannah’s statement is an out-of-court statement that contains the officer’s opinion about a collision they didn’t observe, it’s hearsay.
The main rationale for the inadmissibility of accident reports is that there’s no cross-examination in court. In civil court, allowing the other party to question evidence is an essential tenet. With accident reports, that scrutiny is simply not possible.
Accident Reports and Houston Motor Vehicle Accidents
When you don’t know what to do about accident reports, it’s important to consult with a Houston auto accident attorney. Typically, attorneys conduct separate investigations into the accident. We do this to uncover clear liability as well as potential avenues to maximize your settlement.
At AP Law Group, we use accident reports to negotiate an appropriate settlement that covers your damages. Often, insurance companies try to lowball your settlement. As your advocates, we fight for the compensation you need.
With aggressive representation and personalized strategy, we fight for your rights to protect your future. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with our team!