In most car accidents in Massachusetts the police will be called to the scene of the crash. For car accidents on state highways, such as the Mass Pike, I-93 or 128, the Massachusetts State Police will respond and for accidents on town or city roadways the local police usually respond. Either way, troopers or officers, who respond to accidents, try to keep the scene safe for others, investigate the crash, and get help for any persons injured. The police will complete a written report, which we all know as a Police Report or Motor Vehicle Crash Report. This report can become a very important piece of evidence in a personal injury claim filed by an injured party in the accident. Here’s what makes a police report important in car accident cases:
Police Reports / Motor Vehicle Crash Reports Contain Relevant Facts
A police report that is created for a car accident in Massachusetts contains a lot of very important information and facts that are useful to accident victims and their attorneys. Some of the important facts are:
- Names of the parties and motor vehicles involved and their insurance companies. The police officers that respond to an accident scene will get the information from all the parties involved. This information includes the names of the owner of the vehicle, drivers, passengers as well as their addresses and other identifying information. This is important because, if there is a dispute as to what happened in the accident, the lawyers and their investigators know who the parties and witnesses are. Additionally another very important piece of information in the police report is the auto insurance companies that insure the cars involved. This is significant for accident victims because you then know which insurance company to file your personal injury claim with.
- Date, time and location of the accident. The police report will also document when and where the accident happened. This is important because as time goes on people’s memories fade and they may forget or incorrectly remember when and where the accident actually happened. In a personal injury claim, the police report can be referred to in order to establish the exact date, time, and location of the accident.
- A crash diagram of the roadways and vehicles. The Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crash Report has a section for the trooper or police officer to sketch out an illustration of how the accident happened. The diagram includes a grid where the roadways can be drawn showing the vehicles involved in the crash and the directions they traveled.
- Injuries, property damage, and ambulance transport. Another important aspect of the Crash Report are notations of injuries suffered by the people involved in the accident, the extent of the damage to the vehicles, and whether anyone was transported by ambulance. These facts contained in a crash report are important and often used during the negotiation of an injury claim.
- A report that states that the accident victim was injured will substantiate a claim for damages pursued later on. In contrast, a report that indicates that a claimant denied he or she was injured can create an issue when negotiating or litigating the case. (A quick tip: If you feel pain or suspect any injury, make sure to tell the responding police officer so he documents it in the Crash Report. Don’t try to tough it out.)
- A description of the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident can be important in determining the severity of the crash. The more severe the damage the more likely the injuries.
- If a party was transported by ambulance, it is usually documented in the report. This is significant because a lot of times individuals who suffer severe injuries in car accidents don’t remember what ambulance company transported them to the emergency room. The Crash Report will help you or your lawyer find out which EMS or ambulance service responded and transported the injured person so you know where to request the ambulance report and the ambulance bill.
- The police officer’s conclusions. Most times the officer will provide an opinion or conclusion as to who was at fault for the accident. The officer will also include any citations that were issued to the at-fault driver including the alleged violation as well as the citation number. This conclusion can be very important in a disputed accident case because the insurance company and others relying on the police report will accept the officer’s opinion as decisive as to who caused the accident.
What If The Crash Report Is Wrong
In some situations the police report can be inaccurate. This becomes a legitimate concern for accident victims. A report may incorrectly fault the wrong driver for causing the accident, state that you were not injured in the crash, or leave out other important information. While a police report is an important document in accident cases it is not conclusive on all contested facts. A police officer that responds to an accident was not a percipient witness to the crash. The officer’s opinions and conclusions are often based on the positions of the vehicles after the crash, statements of the parties involved and witnesses who saw the accident. Sometimes the officer can be wrong or relies on a witness, who was mistaken as to what actually happened. In other situations, the officer may not be able to speak with the injured party because he or she was being treated by emergency medical technicians and then was immediately transported to the emergency room. In that case, the officer is merely relying on the other driver, who wrongly blames the other driver for causing the accident.
You shouldn’t be too concerned if the police report is inaccurate. You should, however, take detailed notes on what you feel is wrong in the report and speak with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyer. An attorney, who is experienced in handling accident cases and has strong litigation skills, can help in addressing the inaccuracies in the police report. Extensive investigation into the accident and thorough cross examination of the police officer can prove that certain facts in the report are wrong. In other more complex cases, an accident reconstruction team can be retained to establish that the accident was not your fault and that the report was incorrect.
If you were injured in a car accident and need information about what to do, please call our office at (508) 879-3500 or feel free to request a free copy of our book: You Were In A Car Accident: How To Maximize Your Settlement. This book explains the basics of a car accident case and tips on what you need to do to get the best possible settlement.