If you’re injured in a car accident or other accident, there might be a police report about the accident. This police report is usually highly requested by lawyers and insurance companies – but what value does the report actually have as evidence for your Alabama personal injury case?
Generally, police reports are hearsay – that is, statements made out of court being offered to prove the truth of the statement. That generally means that police reports cannot be used as evidence of what happened in the accident, but they can still be introduced for limited reasons.
For help with an injury case, call Howe Law today at (844) 876-4357. Our Alabama personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations.
Using Alabama Police Reports as Evidence in an Injury Case
Generally speaking, any statement made out of court and being offered for the truth of the matter is inadmissible as evidence under Alabama Rule of Evidence 802. This means, for example, that you cannot quote a police officer saying, “I agree, the accident was all their fault” as proof that the accident was, indeed, “their fault.” However, out of court statements like police reports can be used for many other reasons that are allowed, and they can sometimes be admissible on limited grounds under some exceptions from Rule 803.
Other Uses for Police Reports
As we’ve mentioned, you cannot use a police report to prove that what the report says is true. Many police reports include diagrams of the crash scene and “narratives” detailing what happened in the crash. Many evidentiary battles deal with using these portions, but they are typically blocked as hearsay because you cannot use the police report (an out-of-court statement) to prove how the accident happened. Instead, you would need to instead have the police officer or another witness come in and testify as to what they saw happen.
However, if you are using the police report for other reasons, it might be allowed.
One of the most common ways that our Alabama personal injury lawyers will use a police report in court is to help a police officer refresh their recollection. As long as the police officer does, in fact, remember the accident, they can reference their police report while testifying to help them remember precisely what happened. In fact, anyone can use the police report to help them refresh their recollection as long as they do have an independent memory of the events in the first place.
Another way police reports can be used is to “impeach” a witness. This typically happens by using the statements in a police report to challenge a witness’ current statements with previous contradictory statements. For example, if the defendant testifies in court that they told the police officer they had not been drinking, but the police report shows the defendant admitted to drinking two beers, then the report can be used to challenge the defendant’s testimony. However, it cannot be used as proof that the defendant drank two beers, or else that would be hearsay. Because of the complexity and potential prejudice of using hearsay statements this way, it will often take skilled arguments from our Birmingham personal injury lawyers to get permission to use police reports in court.
Admissibility of Police Reports
Some parts of police reports might actually be admissible based on specific exceptions under Rule 803(8). However, they are limited.
Aside from the “narrative” sections of police reports, some police reports include conclusions that the officer made during their investigation. However, our Alabama personal injury lawyers must show that the report meets a few requirements to introduce these sections. For example,
- The report must qualify as a “public record.”
- The police officer must have the proper training and experience to make conclusions about certain facts.
- The officer must appropriately apply these techniques.
- Their conclusions must be trustworthy.
If these and some other conditions are met, we might be able to get limited parts of the police report admitted as evidence. However, the report must be deemed trustworthy by the court, and the conclusions cannot be “legal” conclusions (such as a decision about who was ultimately at fault for the crash).
All in all, while these conclusions might be helpful, their use might be limited. In many cases, our Biloxi personal injury attorneys can introduce stronger evidence than the police report, such as live testimony, photos, physical evidence, and expert reports.
Other Ways to Use Police Reports in Injury Cases in Alabama
As mentioned, police reports can be used to help a witness refresh their recollection of what happened and to challenge testimony with prior inconsistent statements. However, our Alabama personal injury lawyers and many insurance companies also use police reports for other purposes. This makes them extremely valuable tools, and our lawyers will often ask injury victims for the police report when looking into their potential injury case.
One way we use police reports is as a starting place for building your case. The report will often contain a clear explanation of what happened, so we will start with that narrative – as well as the narrative explanation that you provide us – as the outline of the facts. We can then add additional evidence and information to flesh out a better picture of what happened.
We can also use the names, vehicle descriptions, and evidence listed in the report as a list of potential witnesses to talk to and evidence to collect. In many cases, however, it is best to collect this information on your own. If you are able to collect the following information at the scene of the crash, it will all be very useful:
- Names, contact info, and insurance info for everyone involved
- Photos of the accident
- Info on the location of the crash,
The police report, however, is a good backup record of this evidence and might list additional witnesses to talk to or evidence that you might not have collected. Especially if you had to go straight to the hospital after your accident, you might not have been able to stay and collect evidence. In that case, the police report will be the first place our Gulfport personal injury lawyers look for this info.
Call Our Alabama Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you were injured in an accident, call Howe Law today at (844) 876-4357 for a free case review. Our Alabama personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations.