Police reports are often important after a car accident. Police file these reports whenever they are called to an accident scene, and car accident lawyers and insurance companies almost always ask for the police report when handling a car accident claim. But can you actually use these police reports as evidence in a Mississippi personal injury case?
Generally, police reports are considered hearsay and would be blocked from being admitted as evidence in a personal injury case. However, there are some specific exceptions to these rules that allow police reports to be used for certain reasons, and some additional rules that might allow them to be admissible as evidence. But there are some strict limitations and exceptions.
For a free case review on your injury claim, call Howe Law’s Mississippi personal injury lawyers today at (844) 876-4357.
Can Police Reports Be Used as Evidence in an Injury Case in Mississippi?
Police reports often have a good explanation of what happened in a car crash – at least from the perspective of someone who came to the scene afterward. Because of this, insurance companies and attorneys tend to use police reports as the neutral story of how the crash occurred and even who was at fault. However, their use in court might be more limited and controlled.
Mississippi Hearsay Rules
Typically, any statement made outside of the courtroom is considered hearsay. The Mississippi Rules of Evidence (and most rules of evidence) prefer to have people come into the courtroom and testify about what they saw happen. As such, most statements outside of court used to prove what happened are blocked as hearsay under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 802. However, rule 803 establishes a few exceptions where these hearsay statements are reliable enough to be used as evidence.
Business and Public Records Exceptions
Rule 803(6) creates an exception for “Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity” – the “business records” exception – which is sometimes argued to be grounds to admit a police report. The stronger exception, however, is 803(8). Under a Mississippi Supreme Court case called Rebelwood Apartments, LP v. English (2010), police reports can indeed be used as evidence in an injury case under this public records exception if they meet certain requirements.
These reports have to be “trustworthy” to have certain information in them used as evidence. In an example of an “untrustworthy” report, Rhoda v. Weathers (2011) saw an appeals court uphold a trial court’s blocking of a police report that was found not to be reliable enough to be admitted as evidence. In that case, the trial court found that the police officer who prepared the report did not actually remember preparing that specific report. Instead, he could only explain what he usually does when writing a report, as this was one of the thousands of reports he’d prepared. In the report, he included information about different accounts of who was at fault and made his own decision. The court ultimately found that this was not a reliable report as it was doing essentially the same thing that the jury was supposed to do: determine fault. Ultimately, the report was barred from being used as evidence, and the appeals court upheld this decision.
So while police reports can be used as evidence in some cases, they still have to be reliable or else the trial court can block that evidence. Our Valdosta personal injury lawyers can seek to have police reports admitted in your case, but there are options if that does not work out.
Alternatives to Using Police Reports in Mississippi Injury Cases
If you cannot get a police report or the court ultimately blocks the police report from being used as evidence in your case, don’t worry. There are still other ways that our Mississippi personal injury lawyers can get the same information and evidence introduced in your injury case.
First, police reports are somewhat unnecessary if the police officer can come in and testify in person. Police reports are merely records of what the police officer saw – but the police officer can better introduce that evidence to a judge and jury by taking the stand and testifying. Often, police officers deal with a huge volume of cases and might not remember your specific case. However, they can use their police report to refresh their recollection and help them testify in person.
Second, you can introduce the same evidence from better sources. Police reports merely wrap up all of the evidence in one package. However, you were involved in the accident and might be able to introduce the same evidence through your own testimony about what cars were involved, which people were involved, what injuries resulted, where the accident took place, etc. Collecting this evidence on your own after an accident is vital, and you should not rely on the police to collect the info for their report.
Talk to our Mississippi personal injury lawyers about what other evidence can be used in your case to help prove who was at fault and what injuries you suffered. Because police reports have a limited scope of what information is contained in the report, there may be many other pieces of evidence you need to use to build your case anyway.
Other Uses for Police Reports in Mississippi Personal Injury Cases
While police reports might sometimes be admitted as evidence, there are other ways to use police reports as well.
First, your Mississippi personal injury lawyer can use the report to start building your case. We can use the report as an outline and build it up with additional evidence and testimony as we go.
Second, as mentioned, a police officer can use the report to refresh their recollection on the stand. This is usually allowed by the Rules of Evidence, and nearly any document can be used to help someone refresh their recollection to help them testify on the stand at trial or in a deposition as long as they do have an independent memory of the events. If they forgot the events entirely, they cannot just read from the report.
Third, we can use the statements in the report to challenge the truthfulness of other testimony. For example, if the defendant testifies that they told the police officer something and the police report shows them saying something else, we can use quotes from the report to show that their story is inconsistent. Since you are not actually introducing the report to prove that what the report says is true, it does not qualify as hearsay and can be used for this purpose.
Our Hattiesburg personal injury lawyers might use a police report in many ways as part of an injury case, so it is very important to collect the report in your case.
Call Our Mississippi Personal Injury Lawyers Today
For a free review of your potential injury case, call Howe Law’s Georgia personal injury lawyers today at (844) 876-4357.