Automobile Accident Litigation: Overturning the Unfavorable Police Report

 Automobile Accident Litigation: Overturning the Unfavorable Police Report

Introduction: The Police Report is against your client. Now what? Over the last sixteen years of practicing personal injury and automobile accident law, it has been our experience먹튀폴리스  that the quality of traffic accident investigations has steadily declined, leaving many injured people further harmed by a poor or incomplete police report. The reasons are as follows: government budget issues, poor police officer training, and a lack of commitment to performing a complete accident investigation. Certain well meaning police officers are just not qualified to investigate a complicated catastrophic car, truck or pedestrian injury or death case.

If the police report is against your client an insurance adjuster may not want to make a reasonable settlement offer. As a result the case may be difficult to resolve in a positive way for an injured client. A lawsuit may need to be filed and depositions of the witnesses, drivers, and investigating police officers taken to rebut the police report’s conclusion. If the facts can be developed, it is the attorney’s job to show the insurance adjuster, a judge or jury that the police officer got it wrong.

As we unpack the issues involved in overturning the unfavorable police report we will be discussing the following topics:

A. What is a Traffic Collision Report?
B. Who Has Standing to Obtain a Copy of the Traffic Collision Report?
C. Is the Primary Reporting Officer’s Opinion Admissible at Trial?
D. Are the Witness Statements Within a Police Report Admissible at Trial?
E. Proving the Primary Reporting Officer’s Opinion Is Wrong.

A. What is a Traffic Collision Report?

The Traffic Collision Report or CHP 555 is the standard reporting tool for most all police officer traffic investigators in California. It is intended to satisfy the basic data requirement needs of all users of traffic collision information.

The box on page 2 of the CHP 555 identifies the Primary Collision Factor. Primary Collision factor is defined by the CHP as; “PRIMARY COLLISION FACTOR. Select the one element or driving action which in the officer’s opinion, best describes the primary or main cause of the collision. Whenever possible, this should be a Vehicle Code (VC) violation.”

The term Other Associated Factor is defined by the CHP as; “OTHER ASSOCIATED FACTORS(S). When a secondary violation has been determined to have contributed to the collision, write the VC section in the appropriate box.”

B. Who Has Standing to Obtain a Copy of the Traffic Collision Report?

Drivers involved in car accidents are required by statute to file reports with the California Highway Patrol or local police department, Vehicle Code section 20008. People with a “proper interest” can obtain copies of a police report, Vehicle Code section 20012.

The parties involved in the accident or any other persons having a “proper interest” may obtain copies of a police report. This includes persons involved in later accidents at the same location because the reports may disclose highway conditions causing or contributing to their own accident. See, California ex rel. Dept. of Transp. v. Sup.Ct. (Hall), 37 C3d at 855.

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