Motor vehicle collisions are consistently a leading cause of injuries in California. In the most recent year with comprehensive data, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) reports that 269,031 people were hurt in crashes in the state. Following an accident, injured victims need to be ready to navigate the claims process. The more evidence you have, the better position you will be in to get justice.
A police report is a key form of evidence. Unfortunately, not all police reports are accurate. What happens if your car accident police report is inaccurate? You should take immediate action to address the issue. Within this article, our Stockton auto accident lawyer explains the key things to know about disputing the details in a car crash police report in California.
Background: California is a Fault-Based Car Accident State
As a starting point, it is imperative that you understand the importance of “fault” in a motor vehicle accident claim in Stockton, California. The state operates under a “fault” car insurance model. How does it work? In general, the person/party who is legally determined to be at fault for an accident is liable for the damages sustained by the other party involved in the incident.
When the insurance companies assess who is at fault, one of their most significant pieces of evidence is the official police report generated at the scene of the accident. Understanding the fault-based model is crucial because if the police report inaccurately portrays the details of the accident or assigns blame unfairly, it can lead to an unjust allocation of fault.
A Police Report is a Key Piece of Evidence After a Car Crash
California law requires that virtually all significant crashes are promptly reported to law enforcement. If any person sustained any physical injury, the accident must be reported to the authorities. Most often, a state or local police officer will come to the scene.
After a car accident, the police report serves as the official record of the incident, providing a detailed account of what occurred. It matters. Insurance companies often rely heavily on the information contained within this report when determining fault and compensation. In other words, a car accident police report in California can influence the settlement of claims greatly.
What You Will Find on a Car Accident Police Report in California
What does a car accident police report actually include? The answer depends on a number of different case specific factors, including what law enforcement agency is handling the matter. In Stockton, California, you can expect to find some or all of the following in a car crash police report:
- Identifying Information: Names, addresses, contact information, and insurance details of all parties involved, including drivers, passengers, and witnesses.
- The Overriding Car Accident Details: Date, time, location, weather and road conditions, and a description of the accident.
- Vehicle Information: Make, model, color, and year of each vehicle involved in the accident.
- A Preliminary Assessment of Injuries and Property Damage: A description of any injuries sustained or property damage incurred.
- A Diagram of the Accident and a Basic Narrative of the Crash: A diagram of the accident scene, and a narrative account of the accident from the responding officer’s perspective, potentially (but not always) including the perceived cause and who was at fault.
Note: Even if preliminary fault is assigned, a police report is never the final word on a car accident case in California. It is a key piece of evidence, but it is just that. The responding police officer does not get the final word on any legal issue.
A Police Report Could Have Errors in it
Despite the professionalism and dedication of law enforcement officers, errors can occur when generating police reports. Human errors, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations of witness statements can lead to inaccuracies. For example, an officer may inaccurately portray the sequence of events leading to the accident, incorrectly record vehicle or insurance information, or misinterpret a statement given by a witness or party involved.
Moreover, in some instances, an officer might not have all the information needed to make a fully informed judgment about fault. They might not have had access to relevant CCTV footage or certain witness accounts at the time of writing the report, which could potentially impact the accuracy of the report. The good news is that, if errors are found within the police report, it is possible to dispute it. A successful dispute can lead to amendments or additions to the report.
Your Options If Your Car Accident Police Report has a Material Mistake
In the event that you discover a significant mistake on your car accident police report after a crash in Stockton, you are not out of options. Be proactive: It is important to promptly address the issue. An experienced attorney can help. Here are your two main options for dealing with a problematic police report after a car accident in California:
- You Can Seek a Supplemental Police Report: One of your primary options is to request a supplemental police report. Doing so can be especially useful when new evidence comes to light that was not initially available when the original report was created, such as additional witnesses, security camera footage, or previously overlooked physical evidence. Start by contacting the law enforcement agency that handled the incident. Explain the situation, including what the mistake is, why you believe it is an error, and any supporting evidence you have. An attorney can help you deal with the law enforcement agency.
- You Can Challenge the Police Report in the Claims Process: Another viable option is to dispute the report directly during the insurance claims process. The claims adjuster reviews the police report along with other information like medical records and repair estimates to make a decision on the claim. If you disagree with the details in the police report, present your evidence to the adjuster. This could be in the form of photographs, witness testimony, or a professional accident reconstruction report. Remember that the insurance company’s primary goal is to minimize their payout. You need a skilled lawyer on your side. .
Call Our Stockton, CA Car Crash Attorney for Immediate Help
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton auto accident attorneys are fierce advocates for injured victims. Hurt in a motor vehicle crash? We are more than ready to help. Contact our personal injury firm today for your free consultation. Our firm is located in Stockton and we handle motor vehicle accident claims throughout the region, including in San Joaquin County and Sacramento County.