That Police Report May Look Good-But it’s Probably Not Admissible in Trial
After most car accidents, the police on scene will generate a police report. When accident victims see injury attorneys, they often look at the police report, as validation that the other side was at fault for the accident.
The police report may look like invaluable information to show a jury—almost conclusive proof that you, as the victim, did not cause the accident.
But you may be surprised to know that in most cases, the jury will never see that police report, because it is generally privileged from being used as evidence in your injury case.
Why would a police report be prohibited from being used in a personal injury trial in Florida? There are a number of reasons.
Based on Hearsay
The first reason is that the police report is largely based on hearsay—the police officer on scene used or relied on what the people at the scene of the accident (you, the Defendant, and eye witnesses) told the officer, in compiling the report.
The other reason is that while the police report may assign blame to one side or another, a police officer is not a legal expert, nor is the officer the ultimate decider of whose version of a conflicted story may be correct.
Officers can and sometimes do assign blame to a given party at the scene of an accident, incorrectly. That may be because of misunderstanding of the law, or because the information given to the officer by people at the scene of the accident, is inaccurate.
The other reason police reports cannot be used as evidence, is that people just trust police officers too much. There is a concern that if a police report were to say that Driver A caused the accident, that the jury would simply ignore all other evidence—the weight of the officer’s conclusion is so great, that it cloud’s the jury’s ability to fairly hear or consider any conflicting evidence.
This is called being unfairly prejudicial—all evidence that falls into this category, is excluded from being used in your injury trial.
Note that just because the report may be inadmissible, doesn’t mean the officer cannot testify—he or she certainly can, and to the extent he or she can remember, the officer can tell the jury who the officer found to be liable for the accident.
Additionally, the police report can help your injury attorney get the names of witnesses, and insurance companies, when evaluating whether to offer a settlement or not, do rely on police reports. So a report that is in your favor, may give you leverage when trying to resolve your case, even if it will never be seen in trial.
What can you expect to happen in your injury trial? We can help you understand. Contact the Tampa personal injury lawyers Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian and schedule a consultation today to have your questions answered after your accident.