Georgia requires all car accidents involving injuries, death, or property damage to be reported to the police. However, some car accident victims ask if their police report can be used in their lawsuit to recover compensation.
Police reports are valuable pieces of evidence since they usually contain the observations of the officer sent to investigate the accident. Fortunately, certain portions of a police report are admissible in evidence to support a victim’s Georgia car accident case. In general, statements made out of court are considered hearsay and barred from trial. However, there is an exception for observations made by officers in their police reports. Other exceptions could also help get other witnesses’ statements from the report admitted.
If you would like to know if the information in your police report is admissible in an injury case, our Georgia car accident lawyers can provide You with a free case assessment by calling us at Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.
Can Police Reports Be Admissible in Injury Cases in Georgia?
Unlike many other states, Georgia permits police reports to be admitted as evidence to assert the truth of how a victim’s injuries were caused in certain situations. Most states bar police reports from being admitted as evidence since they contain statements that are considered hearsay. While most people understand the common usage of the term “hearsay,” Georgia law has its own definition with many complex rules built in. Our Atlanta car accident lawyers can review your case to help you determine how Georgia’s hearsay rules will impact your case.
Understanding Georgia’s Rule Against Hearsay
Under Georgia Rule of Evidence 802, hearsay is typically not admissible at trial. This is because the testimony of those not testifying at trial is less reliable than when testifying in court, where the opposing attorney can cross-examine the witness making the statement. According to Georgia law, hearsay refers to a statement made by someone other than a witness at trial that is offered as evidence to prove the truth of what is alleged.
The statements contained in official police reports are generally considered hearsay in Georgia. However, specific portions of a police report might be admissible if the statements at issue fall under one of the exceptions to the Georgia hearsay rule.
Exception for Hearsay Contained in Public Records
In Georgia, statements from a police report are admissible under Rule 803(8) of the Georgia Rules of Evidence, the exception for public records, if the officer personally observed the fact being introduced from the report. If the police report includes the officer’s personal observations, they can be offered to prove how your injuries were caused. Typical observations include observing whether a driver was intoxicated or if skid marks were noticed at the accident site.
For an officer’s statements in the police report to be admissible in an injury case under Rule 803(8),they must be trustworthy. However, it is the duty of the side opposing the police report from being used who must challenge the trustworthiness of the police report. If the opposing side has evidence that indicates the observations within the police report cannot be relied on, the observations in the police report will be inadmissible in court.
However, this exception only applies to official observations made by the investigating officer.. An example might help illustrate the point. If the officer makes notes stating facts like how the defendant appeared, their age, and physical damage done, those can usually be introduced as evidence through the police report. But if the officer recorded statements from one driver about the other, like the other driver told them they were drunk, those statements would likely be inadmissible as it is hearsay within hearsay.
Does the Hearsay Rule Apply to Statements Made by Witnesses
Like the example just given, if a witness made the statements in the police report that are being offered into evidence, Georgia’s rule against hearsay would bar its admissibility, since this is considered hearsay within hearsay. However, if the defendant made the statements trying to be admitted in evidence, they should be admissible under Rule 801(d)(2)(a), the exception for statements made by a party opponent. Out-of-court statements made by a defendant are typically not considered hearsay under Georgia law since they are in court to testify and be cross-examined.
However, another exception will need to be used if an eyewitness gives the statements to the police. Georgia Rule of Evidence 803(1) will usually permit the admission of a statement if it describes or explains the issue as it happened or immediately after. If a witness’s statement includes their state of mind, feelings, sensations, or physical condition after the incident, those statements can typically be admitted under Rule 803(3). Our Alpharetta car accident lawyers can ensure every hearsay exception is analyzed and applied to your case so that important statements from your police reports are admitted.
What If My Georgia Police Report Contains Inaccurate Information?
It is not impossible for an officer to include inaccurate information or omit certain details in your police report. This can have a massive impact on your case and make recovering compensation that much harder. While it can be difficult to challenge the information within a police report once the investigating officer has submitted it, our firm can help you fight to have the errors addressed and corrected.
In any case, the best strategy is usually to have the police officer or witness come into court and directly testify as to what they saw during the accident and its aftermath. Relying on a faulty report where the investigating officer is not available to testify can present problems that can be overcome by simply having them testify in person. However, the report could still prove useful if we need to use it to challenge what the officer is saying in court. If you know the report is flawed, you might be able to have it thrown out as evidence if you can show that the observations made in the report are untrustworthy. Our Georgia personal injury lawyers can speak to the law enforcement agency that made your report and work with the investigating officer to make the necessary changes before moving forward.
Our Georgia Car Accident Lawyers Can Help
If you need help understanding how your police report will impact your case, our Columbus car accident lawyers can help by providing you with a free review of your case today when you contact Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.