The police report is often the best source of information in an automobile accident case. It can be so important that we recommend that anyone involved in an accident call the police. The police may or may not create a report (depending on the county’s standards for reports), but they will usually at the very least create an exchange of information report, which can also be useful. These reports allow lawyers to hit the ground running—they typically give useful information including:
- Date/time of accident
- Location of accident
- Owners/drivers of all vehicles, and their contact information
- Weather conditions
- Whether any traffic citations were issued
- Contact information for witnesses
- Contact information for the investigating officer
Using Police Reports At Trial
One common misconception about police reports is that they are determinative of fault. Maryland reports (called State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Accident Reports) have a box for each vehicle noting whether that driver was at fault. While the checkbox is somewhat persuasive for insurance adjusters, it is not authoritative. The decision of which driver was at fault in an accident is simply the investigating officer’s evaluation of the available evidence. On the one hand, it might not include all of the important information—sometimes there are witnesses who were not available, including drivers who had to go directly to the hospital.
So, a police report that faults an automobile accident victim for the collision should not be blindly accepted. Importantly, police reports are not typically allowed as evidence at trial because it is the judge or jury’s decision about liability that is really important. To allow the police officer’s decision into evidence would only infect the decision-making process.
However, we frequently subpoena police officers to testify at trials of the accidents that they have investigated. They can testify about details that could be important, like road conditions and identification of parties. They can also testify about what the negligent driver told them at the scene of the accident—we have had cases where the driver admitted fault to the police officer, but changed his story before trial. There are few things as effective as a police officer in full uniform telling the judge or jury what he heard.
Ordering Police Reports
We will take care of all details regarding your automobile collision, but if you want to get a jump on things, you can get your own police report. Some counties are offering this service online—Baltimore City and Montgomery County, in particular.
If you have questions after an automobile accident in Maryland or West Virginia, contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-776-4529, or send us some brief information about your automobile accident to us through our online portal. We will obtain the police report from your accident right away and begin work on your case.
More Maryland Automobile Accident Information
- What to Do After A Maryland Automobile Accident
- Hiring a Maryland Automobile Accident Lawyer (Part I)
- Hiring a Maryland Automobile Accident Lawyer (Part II)
- What’s My Maryland Automobile Accident Worth?
- Ingerman & Horwitz: Main Auto Accident Webpage