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Can I Use the Police Report in my Massachusetts Personal Injury Case?

Which piece of evidence often presents our Boston personal injury lawyers with the most amount of information regarding a car accident? The police report, of course. Is a police report and out-of-court statement submitted to prove the truth of the matter contained within the report? Yes, of course it is.

The police report is a document prepared shortly after the occurrence of the car accident by a police officer. The police officer completing the report has likely assessed many, if not hundreds, of similar car accidents. The officer has likely contributed just as many reports after assessing those car accident cases.

There is, of course, an argument to be made that the police report falls under the hearsay exceptions of business records. The business records exception provides an exception to the hearsay rule for business entries in an account, book or card system or by any other system of keeping accounts or writing or record. It is a memorandum to record any act, occurrence, or event.

Although police records have historically been excluded as hearsay with no exception, there is some older case law which tends to support the external circumstances that the business records exception could apply. However, I would not recommend that a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer rely upon this old case law, unless there is a question as to the substance relied upon for evidence submission. An argument can be made that the evidence is being submitted to prove something other than the truth of the matter asserted in the police report, and the case law would help.

Understanding why the police report is not allowed can be explained in fairly simple terms. The police officer likely did not personally witness the accident. Instead, he or she likely spoke with people involved in the accident, took another witness's statement, and recapped a summary into the report. So essentially, what he's done is transcribed other people's hearsay statements into a report. There may be additional information the report, such as the individual observations of the officer as to skid marks on the road, placements of the vehicles, estimated speed of vehicles, and observations about the surroundings, such as the weather conditions. However, there is a better way to get these facts into evidence--that is, to have the officer testify.

This hearsay rule is sometimes troubling and hard to understand for those who've been victims of a car accident and suffered personal injury. People generally think of police officers as authority figures, and they are. But, these rules are based out of the reliability of the statements and, accordingly, there are limitations written into our law. A good police report is still extremely valuable to the case. We can use the police report to understand what the police officer who wrote the report is likely to testify to, if called to the stand. In any personal injury case, we can use the police report to get a better sense of how the car accident occurred. We can get a sense of who will be determined to be the party at fault, although that finding by a police officer on the scene is not conclusive on the point. We are often left with the lack of evidence in trying to find every shred we can after the client initially retains our firm. At the very least, a police report can paint us a valuable first impression.

For victims of motor vehicle accidents, our firm highly recommends obtaining the police report and providing it to your perspective personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will be able to review the police report and size of the case with ease. For a free consultation with the Boston personal injury lawyer in our office, call today.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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