If the police don’t report an accident, it’s like it didn’t happen – right?
You can tell yourself that all you want, but unfortunately, that doesn’t make it true.
Just because the police don’t show up to the site of a minor car crash doesn’t mean you won’t get sued by the other driver.
A police report is just that: a report. It’s a written account of what the police officer was told by witnesses and drivers at the scene, along with his own observations of the cars’ damage, weather conditions, drivers’ injuries and more.
While this carries heavy weight, it’s not the Word of God written on holy parchment. It’s a hearsay account that is generally not admissible in court because the officer didn’t observe it for himself. It preserves the accident scene in a bubble for drivers who weren’t thinking clearly after the accident or whose injuries were not immediately apparent.
For example, if one of the drivers realizes that fault has been assigned to the wrong driver, he or she can appeal to have the report changed.
Bottom line – these reports aren’t set in stone like the Ten Commandments.
Additionally, insurance claims can go forth without police reports under most circumstances. If the offending driver hasn’t fled the scene, a report sometimes isn’t necessary (if a driver has been injured, however, a report is required). It certainly helps, and it expedites the claim. However, it doesn’t bar the claim from going forward.
What this means is that a police report isn’t a requirement for someone to sue you.
It’s a very helpful piece of evidence that provides a lot of useful testimony. Court cases ride on credibility, and police reports provide a window into whether the plaintiff and defendant are credible witnesses. They also offer information as to neutral bystanders who saw the accident happen. This is all valuable information that can help a court decide what actually happened.
But it’s not imperative! A plaintiff can absolutely come back days or even months later and decide to sue you, even without a police report – she just has to be within the statute of limitations. And just because a police officer didn’t come to the scene doesn’t mean that the plaintiff didn’t file her own incident report after the fact.
Then it becomes a game of “he said, she said.” The case comes down to credibility of witnesses, documentation of damage and testimony. In the end, it will be up to a jury to decide who is the most believable.
Tell us – were you in an accident that didn’t have a police report? Let us know!