Can You Get An Accident Report Changed?
You were in a car accident, and the police were called. After ensuring everyone was safe, they conducted an initial investigation and completed an accident report. This report contains information such as the date and time of the crash, the names and contact information of everyone involved, a description of the accident, and whether any citations were issued. In many cases of accidents where there is no personal injury or collision of significance, the police may not even respond or will not prepare a full report, just provide an exchange of driver information form, which does not address the details of the accident.
When police reports are completed, insurance companies regularly read through these reports and will rely on the information to determine which party was at fault, which impacts whether they think you are eligible for financial compensation, and, in some cases, estimate how much based on the description of the damage to the car or the injuries they observe.
There are cases where the information contained in the police report is not accurate, particularly as to fault. Remember, the police generally do not personally witness the accident, so they rely on what they’re told by the parties and a minimal investigation at the scene.
Incomplete or inaccurate reports occur in many cases where the victim of the accident is transported to the hospital before the police arrive or complete their investigation, and the officer never follows up with the injured party but only interviews the other driver and gets one side of the story.
In these cases, any incorrect information in the report, though inaccurate, will still be used by the insurance company to deny your claim. Officers may also miss performing witness interviews.
We take nothing for granted.
Based upon the above, it is critically important to get a copy of your accident report as soon as possible to ensure the information it contains is accurate. Police do their best, but mistakes do happen.
What types of errors should you be looking for? There may be:
- Factual errors - The officer may have included incorrect information about your vehicle, insurance company, accident location, or the description of the damage to your vehicle may be incorrect or that about your injuries. It's also possible that the officer made a transcription error. For example, you explained that you were traveling at 35 mph, but the officer misreads notes taken at the scene and writes that you were traveling at 55 mph, or the officer misunderstands or mistakes that the other driver had the stop sign or red light.
- Missing information - For example, you told the officer after the accident that your neck hurt. But that is not included in the report. Does it matter? It could. If the insurance company challenges the seriousness of your injuries, they could argue that you never reported any pain to the officer and point to the accident report as proof.
- Disputed facts - You may read in the report that the other driver said that you didn't stop before turning, even though you did. If the investigating officer's assessment of how the crash occurred indicates that you are even partially at fault because of that statement, it can have an adverse effect on your potential personal injury claim in Maryland, the District, or Virginia because all still rely on the doctrine of contributory negligence.
Here's how an experienced car accident attorney from the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick can help you.
You've discovered that there is incorrect information in your report. Now what? It may be possible to get the report changed or amended. Or the officer may allow you to include a statement as an addendum to the report. But it's important to act fast. However, in most cases, the officer will not change the report due to time or what they consider a bother.
Keep in mind if the case is contested, the true facts of what occurred may come out through our independent investigation. We do not accept what the officer wrote at face value in those cases where the facts do not appear to add up.
In most cases, we recommend obtaining legal help from a car accident attorney if your accident report is wrong or you disagree with something that was written in it. An attorney can take steps to help you set the record straight in some situations, and the best way to navigate this process is to have an experienced lawyer do it for you.
However, if you decide to go through the process alone, you can:
- Contact the police department that responded to the accident. Ask to speak to the officer who completed the report.
- Explain the situation. Describe the incorrect information. Be polite, even if you are upset about the error.
- Be ready to provide proof. You should have documentation that supports the new information you want to include. This can be photos, a copy of your insurance policy, or medical records. Again, it's in your best interests to talk to an attorney if you think there may be errors in your accident report – especially if you are allowed to include a statement. It's important for the wording of the statement to be clear so that it can't be used against you when determining liability.
- If you have received a ticket as the at-fault driver, then go to court and fight it, hopefully, to set the record straight in traffic court.
- It is always important to get contact information for witnesses, who, of course, can be very helpful.
- Some of the newer cars have dash or rear cameras which may have taken video. This can be, of course, a game changer
At the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC, our legal team has been fighting for the injured for nearly three decades. Along with ensuring your accident report paints an accurate picture of what happened, we can locate and preserve other evidence relevant to your claim. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.