Car Accident Investigations: How Private Investigations Beat Police Reports

Michael GrossmanSeptember 24, 2015 4 minutes

After an accident, it is not unusual to see an array of first responders from policemen to firemen moving about trying to right the mayhem of the accident before them. As part of their duty to serve, they are there to help the victims, take reports, and arrange transport for what it is left of the vehicles involved.

Unfortunately, all of their well-intentioned actions are not going to help a victim receive any compensation after an accident. You may be thinking, "But what about police reports? Aren't those written and filed to prove that I am the victim, and I deserve what is due to me?" The answer is simply, NO.

Questions answered in this article:

  • Should I base my case solely on a police report?
  • What are the shortcomings of a police report?
  • What kind of information is contained in a police report?
  • What is the best approach to investigate a car accident?
  • How do lawyers investigate car accidents?

A police report for all intents and purposes will never decide your case for you. But even when a police report is perfectly accurate and shows you as being the victim, it's still a poor substitute for the evidence that one could collect if a full investigation were launched. You heard that right, a police report is the product of what can only be described as a partial investigation. Which makes sense if you think about it.

Police officers have some of the hardest jobs on the planet, they're almost always understaffed, and the tax paying public who rely on them for so much are also the sale people insisting upon tightening the purse strings. This results in situation where police officers typically cannot spend the time required to fully investigate an accident. It's not that they don't know how, and I'm not saying that their hearts aren't in it, it's just a matter of resources, and, frankly, the police don't usually have the resources they need to investigate a wreck fully.

But it's not just the fact that cops have to do all the dirty work with limited budgets and tools at their disposal; there are a few other major shortcomings of police reports.

  • Police reports are not inherently admissible in court.
  • They offer no official bearing on the outcome of a trial.
  • They summarize the bare minimum of information recorded about the accident.

Here are some of the details an officer is responsible for recording on the accident report:

  • Direction the vehicles were traveling
  • Approximate time of the accident
  • Location of the accident
  • Names of the individual's involved
  • Insurance information of all parties
  • Vague description of how the accident happened according to the officer's opinion

As you can see, there is not a lot of information recorded. So, if police reports are not enough to help you win your case, the next logical step would be to speak with an attorney about your options. Attorneys can help you by conducting third party investigations in order to build a case for you. A third party investigation's main purpose is to help gather as much possible evidence surrounding the accident so that it can be used at trial. The key word is evidence. Evidence is vital to proving the validity of a victim's claim that the person who injured him is the one at fault. To learn more about why evidence is important to your case, check out this article: How to tell who is at fault after an accident.

What do attorneys and private investigator look for after an accident?

The attorneys at our firm work in conjunction with our experienced private investigators and accident re-constructionists to gather, analyze, and compile evidence covering a myriad of details surrounding the accident. Here is a list of the various steps involved in our investigative process:

  • Move rapidly to deposition with the defendant in order to interrogate them about the accident.
  • Send a Spoliation of Evidence Notice to any defendants to ensure all evidence is preserved until we can make arrangements or get permission from the court to inspect it.
  • Obtain the defendant's medical records to check for blood samples that may prove the defendant was intoxicated or on drugs. We take this approach because we've found that medical records are far more reliable than field sobriety tests.
  • Research vehicle ownership because who owns the vehicle is important if someone other than the owner was driving the vehicle involved in the accident.
  • Inspect all of the vehicles involved in the accident, and we often take possession of the vehicles. The inspection involves reviewing and analyzing the car's engine control module data to see how fast the car was going, if brakes were applied, etc. We'll also look into known defects for the particular make and model of the cars involved to uncover or rule out the possibility that a design flaw or defect played a role.
  • Meet with the victims for statements surrounding the details of the accident. If the victim is deceased, they will speak with the victim's family or friends.
  • Speak with all first respondents for their impressions of the incident. Not just the police, either. We want to know what the paramedics saw, how long it took the fire department to extract the victims from the wreckage, and whether or not the tow truck driver gathered all of the wreckage or if he left some by the wayside.

  • Look into the victim's driving record to identify any issues that may be brought up by the defendant and/or to verify that the victim has a good record.
  • Identify all insurance policies involved, including any umbrella policies, uninsured motorist coverage, commercial liability policies, etc.
  • Track down all witnesses, and get recorded statements.
  • Canvas any surrounding businesses for possible video surveillance.
  • Inspect the accident scene itself by taking measurements of distance between landmarks, signs, miles markers, etc. They will also measure elevation changes in the road, braking distance, tread marks, debris fields, etc. They will even evaluate the lighting at the time of the accident as well.
  • Investigate traffic lights for timing and synchronization issues, along with recording the synchronizations for trial.
  • This mountain of information collected by our attorneys and third party investigators is crucial in compiling the necessary evidence that will help you, the victim, have a strong case. I mean think about it, if your child went missing, would you simply sit in your home and wait for the police to find her? No! You would use whatever avenue available to you, such as passing out fliers, organizing search parties, posting and sharing information on social media, etc., to help find your child. The same logic applies for victims of car accidents. Don't sit idly by hoping a lowly police report will magically make money appear from the insurance company because the steps mentioned above are just a small part of the process to winning your case.