Why Is It So Important?
The law enforcement officer who investigates your collision is required to write a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report within 10 days when there is a personal injury or property damage of $1000 or more — in other words, virtually all the time. But we see a disturbing trend for officers not to write these.
This document is critical to your insurance settlement or trial of your case. It is usually the first thing the insurance company or jury wants to see. Why?
Crucial Information in the Report
Often a swearing match arises when both drivers (or several in a multi-vehicle collision) claim the other person is to blame. Who had the green light or who slowed down too fast? The investigating officer arrives at the scene, investigates what happened, and gives his opinion as to which driver caused the collision. The officer adds a brief narrative and diagram to complete the fault conclusion. Speed limits, weather, property damage, injuries, insurance companies, and eyewitnesses are included.
Crash Report Codes
The most common causes in the code system, we see noted are that a driver failed to yield the right of way, failed to control speed, disregarded the stop and go or traffic control signal, or was distracted.
Often, our law firm uncovers facts during our investigation that counter the officer’s initial findings. We find discrepancies between the officer’s interpretation and what actually happened, since he did not see it happen and frequently the injured person has already been rushed to the ER by ambulance by the time he arrives and only the at-fault driver is there to tell his side of the story.
For example, code 72 cell/ mobile phone use may not be checked. But, after subpoening phone records, we may discover the other driver was typing a text when the crash happened.
Or our accident reconstruction might reveal that the driver was following too close, despite that Code 44 not being indicated on the report. We then ask the police officer to file a supplemental report.
Occasionally both (or several) drivers are found to be at fault. Texas uses a system called the comparative responsibility scheme to allocate blame if this is true.
When A Case Goes Into Court
We are about to file suit in a case where the our client had the right of way and this was noted on the police report, but the other driver’s insurance company has arbitrarily placed 35% liability on our client. He, his wife, and children were injured, and this is a miscarriage of justice that must be remedied.
At trial, when we call the officer to the stand, he cannot remember the details of the collision and will read the report to the jury. Generally, they members of the jury give great weight to what he says. However, parts of the report are hearsay and may not admissible and the officer may not be qualified to render an expert opinion regarding who was at fault.