A very common question is, “What determines fault, other than the police report?” And it’s a very important question.
I would say the police report gets it right eighty percent of the time. But twenty percent of the time the police report gets it completely wrong. One of the most common instances in which the police report gets it wrong is when the person who is injured is not able to speak for himself–or herself–because they’ve been taken away in an ambulance, or even more tragically, that they’re deceased at the scene. So, many times the police officer will only get the version of the other person and put that in the police report as what happened.
If you get yourself a top flight law firm, they’re going to have their own investigators, their own accident reconstruction experts, people who can measure skid marks, people who can determine what happened from the damage to the vehicles. And, people who can go out independently, talk to the other officers on the scene, talk to the fire personnel, the ambulance personnel, and witnesses who are not mentioned in the police report.
And, there are those times when the police report is completely wrong, and one of the nice things about the contingency fee nature of personal injury lawyers is it costs you nothing. If we spend a lot of time and money and discover that the police report was right and the person who came to us as a client was at fault, that person owes us nothing.
On the other hand, if we find there is a case when the police report said there was no case, that’s what goes in front of the jury at trial. Because, the police report does not go in front of the jury. The theory being, the policeman was not there at the time, he didn’t see it, he’s only reporting his opinion.