What Happens in a Car Accident Investigation?

by Charles Harvey Allen on Jun. 14, 2019

Accident & Injury Accident & Injury  Car Accident 

Summary: Attorney Charles Allen discusses the process and key points of an investigation following a car accident.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you should always dial 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 emergency operator will send an ambulance to treat your injuries, as well as a police officer to perform a car accident investigation. Once the police officer completes his investigation, he prepares an accident report that contains a lot of important information that is needed to process your insurance claim. 

The police officer’s car accident investigation report typically documents the following information:

  • Statements from the drivers and passengers. The police officer will interview each driver and passenger about how the collision occurred. The officer will also inquire about whether anyone was injured. If you’re removed from the accident scene by ambulance before you have an opportunity to speak with the police officer, you can rest assured that the police officer will follow-up with you once your condition is stabilized.
  • Statements from eyewitnesses. The police officer will also interview any eyewitnesses to determine whether their observations are consistent with what the drivers and passengers have stated.
  • The resting places of the vehicles. The resting places of the vehicles usually provide information about how the collision occurred. For instance, if the vehicles are located on the shoulder of the road in a bumper-to-bumper straight line, that resting position might indicate to the police officer that the accident was a rear-end collision.
  • Damage to the vehicles. The police officer will inspect the damage to each vehicle. He will note whether the damage was slight, moderate, or severe. That information illustrates the severity of the collision impact. It also indicates how the collision might have occurred. For instance, if the damage is primarily located on the front end of your vehicle and the passenger side door of the at-fault driver’s vehicle, that might indicate that the at-fault driver failed to yield to your vehicle by turning left in front of you before you could avoid colliding with his vehicle.
  • Insurance information and home address information. The police officer will collect each driver’s insurance information so that each driver can file claims with his or her respective insurance carriers. The report will also contain information about the drivers’ home addresses. That way, if you need to sue the at-fault driver to recover compensation for your losses, you know where to serve him or her with lawsuit papers.
  • Collision location. The police officer will document where the collision occurred. That way, your attorney can look-up the location on Google Street View and download photos from the collision site to use as illustrations for the insurance adjuster or the jury.

We urge you to contact a car accident lawyer if you’ve been injured in an auto accident. An attorney could order a copy of the police officer’s report and discuss all of the findings with you. Then, they will prepare a strategy to help you recover fair compensation for your losses.

What if the Police Officer’s Car Accident Investigation Report Contains Errors?

Every now and then, the police officer’s report contains an error that must be corrected. For instance, the report might indicate that the police officer determined that you were at fault, even though the police officer meant to write that the other driver was at fault. 

Other times, the errors are more subtle but equally critical. For instance, the report might indicate that the collision occurred in the at-fault driver’s traffic lane when it actually occurred in your traffic lane. That might not sound like a big difference, but it is. In a case where one of the vehicles crossed the center line of the road and collided with the other vehicle, the traffic lane in which the collision impact occurred usually determines which vehicle crossed the center line and is, thus, at fault for causing the collision. 

If your attorney observes a critical error in the report, your attorney will contact the police officer and request that he or she corrects the error. In most cases, the police officer is receptive and will promptly make the correction. In other cases, the police officer will not agree to make the change. 

It’s problematic if the police officer won’t agree to change the error because that might motivate the insurance carrier to deny your claim. In that event, your attorney might need to hire an accident scene investigator to explain that the police officer’s description of the collision is inaccurate. 

Sometimes, the police officer’s report correctly describes how the collision occurred, but it neglects to mention an important detail, such as the identity of a vehicle passenger that was injured in the collision. In that situation, your attorney might need to file a lawsuit to resolve that issue because the insurance company might deny the passenger’s personal injury claim.

For instance, in a lawsuit that one of the attorneys at Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers, LLC successfully resolved, a taxi cab driver and his passenger were both injured by a semi-truck that side-swiped their vehicle. The collision occurred about a block away from the passenger’s workplace. The passenger worried that if he was late for work, he might be fired. 15 minutes after the collision occurred, the police officer still hadn’t arrived. The passenger was feeling sore, but not awful, so he walked the block to work and clocked in. 

When the police officer arrived, the taxi driver explained that both he and the passenger were injured, and that the passenger walked to work to avoid being late. The police officer did not include the passenger in his report. Several days after the collision, our client passenger began to experience severe neck pain. It turned out that he had seriously injured his neck in the collision and he ultimately had to undergo neck surgery to alleviate his pain. 

When we followed up with the police officer and requested that he include the passenger in his report, the officer refused. Predictably, the insurance company denied the passenger’s claim. 

As a result, we had to file a lawsuit so that the taxi cab driver and our client passenger could give sworn deposition testimony that the passenger was also injured in the collision. The truck carrier’s insurance company couldn’t find anyone to rebut the testimony of the taxi cab driver and our client (the truck driver only spoke with the police officer and didn’t know anything about the taxi cab driver or his passenger), so they ultimately agreed to settle the claim for fair value.

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