Standard protocol often calls for the police to be called whenever a car accident occurs. If the police do arrive, they’ll more than likely file a police accident report. This report will aim to objectively state what happened and who did what before, during, and after the accident.
This kind of file is used by insurance companies and law enforcement officials as a means of determining how to proceed. Due to the high regard that’s placed upon this document, it’s extremely important that it’s as factual and as accurate as possible.
Comedian Mike Birbiglia learned this lesson the hard way. After being involved in a hit and run, a poorly filled out police report resulted in Mike owing $12,000 to the drunk driver who hit him.
Police officers often have a ton of things going through their heads and they can sometimes make mistakes. Don’t let this affect you. Continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know when it comes to how to dispute a police accident report.
What’s a Police Accident Report?
A police accident report is a report that’s generated by the officer who responds to assist at the scene of a car accident. The report contains both facts about the accident as well as the investigating officer’s own opinions.
When an officer arrives at the scene, he’s likely to do a number of things. These include talking to the people involved and also witnesses, taking photos, writing notes, and measuring distances. The report that he writes will contain several pieces of relevant information such as:
- Identifying information for parties involved
- Identifying information for witnesses
- Approximate time, date, and location of the accident
- Diagram of accident
- Statements for involved parties and witnesses
- Law violations
- Officer’s own opinions on what happened and who’s at fault
It’s important to note that the police report contains both facts and opinions. Insurance companies can sometimes come to a different conclusion than what the police report claims.
Police reports aren’t always admissible in court. But they can still help determine who was at fault. You can learn more about determining who’s at fault in this car accident article.
Types of Errors
There are several types of errors that can come up when reviewing a police report. Let’s look at some below.
Factual errors are usually easy to fix. These occur when a factual piece of information is written incorrectly. For example, if a name’s spelled incorrectly or the make or model of a car is wrong then that should be fixed immediately.
Luckily, reporting offices can fix these problems quite quickly. To correct this kind of mistake, you normally just have to show a driver’s license or proof of insurance as a way of proving the correct information.
However, factual errors can sometimes have much more drastic consequences too. In the case of Mike Birbiglia, the reporting officer used “Vehicle 1” and “Vehicle 2” in his report instead of the drivers’ names.
The officer then mixed up the numbers and the end result stated that Mr. Birbiglia ended up crashing his car into himself.
Transcription errors are much harder to resolve. These often have to do with the officer either putting in information that you deem to be wrong or not recording information that you believe is important.
For example, if you tell the officer that you believe the other car was going 90 mph and he writes down 70 mph, that’s a transcription error that could affect your case and claim. Also, if you tell the officer that you felt stiffness in your neck immediately after the accident and he doesn’t include that in his report, that can also have an effect.
Perhaps the hardest part of the police report to change, this has to do with you disagreeing with the officer’s conclusions. If they claim you were speeding and caused the accident and you outright disagree, this can be very difficult to amend.
How to Dispute a Police Accident Report
If your dispute is only for factual errors, that’s something you can most likely handle yourself by contacting the reporting office. However, if it’s anything more serious, there’re a few things you should do.
Not everyone knows how to dispute a police accident report when there are disputed facts and transcription errors. That’s why retaining the services of a car accident attorney can be helpful. They have experience with disputing reports and can have an easier time getting information changed.
Also, be sure to write down your own account of the accident. It’s often best to do this soon as soon as possible following the incident so that you can be as accurate as possible.
Be sure to include the date and time in your account to add accuracy and legitimacy to the document. This account can later be added to the report.
Remember, there are an average of 6 million car accidents every year. Most of those end up getting a police report. There’s bound to be some errors in at least several of those reports.
Understanding the Importance of Accurate Police Reports
Police officers are human. And humans make mistakes. But when a mistake as important as one on a police report occurs, it’s important that it’s addressed immediately. That’s why, after an accident, you should get a copy of the police report as soon as possible.
Learning how to dispute a police accident report is invaluable in these sorts of situations. Looking for more helpful legal advice? Check out our blog today!