If you have never been involved in a car accident, consider yourself very lucky. For the majority of people who have, it can be a trying and stressful time. There are numerous issues to deal with, such as rental cars, body shops, and insurance companies. And for those who unfortunately suffer personal injury, there can be ambulance bills, hospital treatment, doctor appointments, lost wages, and maybe even permanent disability. Finally, there are the legal issues associated with recovering appropriate damages to be made whole.
The last thing a person needs is a peripheral issue to deal with, such as a police report that is inaccurate or incorrect. In this article, we will discuss whether such an accident report can be changed or corrected.
How Are Police Reports Created?
In Oregon, when an automobile crash occurs, law enforcement officers may or may not come to the scene, and may or may not prepare an accident report. Of course, Oregon law often requires the people involved in the accident to file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report within 72 hours of the accident.
In those cases where enforcement officers prepare a report, the level of investigation can vary, depending on the severity of the accident. An important source of information comes from interviews with the drivers and other witnesses.
Investigating officers may also take photos of the crashed vehicles, the roadway, and anything else they determine relevant; measure skid marks; and take other relevant measurements on or beside the roadway. Drivers may be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs. The officer in charge may also obtain information from other officers who are on the scene.
Finally, the lead investigator takes all of this information and writes an official report describing how the accident occurred and the condition of those involved.
Why Are Police Reports Sometimes Inaccurate or Totally Incorrect?
Most police officers work hard to create accurate accident reports, but they are human and sometimes make mistakes. Below are some examples of what can cause an inaccurate or incorrect report:
- Typos or transposed numbers or words – For example, the officer may write “the black car crossed the center line,” when he or she intended to write “the red car crossed the center line.” Similarly, driver’s names may be transposed.
- Inaccurate information – A police officer may just be wrong. For example, the officer may mark on the report that an ambulance was refused, when in fact records show that an injured party was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
- Inaccurate assessment of credibility – Following an accident, an officer talks to multiple people. Some may not be truthful. If the officer relies upon misinformation, the report may have inaccurate information or incorrect conclusions.
- Misunderstanding hearsay – As we mentioned, the lead officer may rely on information provided by other officers. A misunderstanding of a reporting officer’s information can lead to inaccurate information working its way into the final report.
- Incomplete evidence – Sometimes an investigating officer may miss important information. For example, a witness possessing relevant information may leave the scene without being interviewed. An injured party may have given an incomplete statement due to injury. Another example is a defective tire or automobile contributing to the accident that can only be identified through expert analysis.
- Drawing unwarranted conclusions – Some officers have more training than others in accident investigation and reconstruction. Principles of physics and mathematics may be involved, and an expert witness may disprove the investigating officer’s analysis or conclusions.
Why Are Police Reports Important?
Insurance adjusters often rely heavily on the conclusions drawn in a police report. This is especially important when you are trying to reach a settlement with a negligent driver’s insurance carrier. Additionally, even though police reports usually aren’t admissible in evidence at a trial, the investigating officer will review it to refresh his or her recollection when testifying.
Can a Police Report Be Changed?
There are times when an officer will agree to modify or supplement a report. The procedures can vary by agency. The chances for obtaining a change are generally greater if done early in the process. Of course, it’s easier to change factual information than it is to change disputable information or conclusions. An experienced lawyer can help with the process.
Even if a change is not ultimately made to the report, the effort can be worthwhile because it can provide relevant information to the officer so that any testimony at trial is as accurate as possible. Finally, even if the report cannot be changed, experienced personal injury lawyers can effectively refute inaccurate information at trial through direct testimony, cross-examination, expert witnesses, and other legal procedures.
Call with Questions
If you have questions about your rights and how to proceed following an accident that has caused you financial harm or injury, please call us and we will answer them in a free consultation. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have handled personal injury cases all over Oregon. We take pride in working with our clients to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions. We think it’s the best way to keep Oregon’s roads safe for everyone.