Mistake #9

Limiting the Role of the Police in Your Case

After a car or motorcycle accident in Rhode Island, you can usually count on the familiar sound of sirens indicating that the police are on their way. If the police do not arrive, however, do not think you have gotten lucky.

No matter what your past experience has been with the police, know that they are there to help. When police arrive, they are going to want to fill out a police report.

Without a police report or a police presence at all, you will be forced to count on the other driver if they were at fault and no other witnesses are present. A driver may act friendly and suggest that you resolve differences without bringing the police into the picture.

That may sound like a good deal if you want to get on with your day. Doing so, however, leaves you without important evidence that builds a stronger case for you.

Why You Need to Call the Police

Even if the accident is minor, having the police show up will help prevent a driver from changing their story from what they initially said.

Rhode Island law requires you to contact the police after an accident occurs. The other driver may have all sorts of valid reasons for not wanting the police, and perhaps you do as well. You are still required to contact the police after an accident.

Some of the reasons police presence may not be desired include:

  • A driver is operating their vehicle with a suspended license.
  • The driver doesn’t want insurance rates to increase.
  • The driver is one of the 17 percent of Rhode Island drivers who are driving without auto insurance.

Whatever the reason, understand that it’s a big risk for your accident claim if you choose not to call the police. Another driver could later say you caused the accident and sue you for injuries that you were not responsible for. If there are no witnesses, it can come down to their word against yours.

This can be an added cost and source of stress nobody should be forced to deal with after an accident it’s the risk drivers take when they decide the police are not needed following an accident.

The most important reason for calling the police to the accident scene is to create an unbiased record of the facts about the accident.

The Importance of the Police Report

When police arrive at the scene of the accident, they will complete and file a police report. If it doesn’t look like they will be filing a report, for whatever reason, be bold and request that they do so. It’s highly unlikely that they won’t, though, as police officers are trained to file these reports and to conduct a proper accident investigation.

To understand why the police report is so important requires understanding what is included in a standard police report. The typical police report in a Rhode Island car accident includes key details like basic contact information of all parties in the accident and a description of what occurred at the scene after conducting an investigation.

The scope of the investigation depends on the nature of the accident. If the accident was a minor fender-bender, expect the report investigation to be fairly minor so the officer can move on to more pressing public safety issues. As an accident scales in either severity or criminality (such as a DUI), you can expect an increasingly indepth police report. For complex accident scenes, the police report can be one of the most valuable pieces of evidence you will have in a fight against the insurance company.

Either way, the report typically involves locating accident parties and as well as witnesses, and recording important information to be provided by these individuals. The officer may then make their own conclusions based on their observations about what may have contributed to or caused the accident.

The report may also diagram the event and the accident scene, noting where traffic signals and important accident factors were located related to the crash site. Finally, the report will include claims from drivers involved if they state that the accident was caused by faulty equipment, such as a defective brake in their car. The officer will likely record such a claim and report it to relevant Rhode Island authorities.

Mistake 9 Limiting the Role of the Police in Your Caser

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Putting the Police Report to Good Use

It should be plain to see that the police report can provide a great deal of evidence that can build a strong case against the insurance company.

Since you need to prove your injuries were caused by an at-fault party to recover compensation, not getting a police report is one of the worst mistakes you can make, yet it’s one that is all too common.

Providing the police report to an insurance claims adjuster will speed up the claims process. Getting through one key roadblock faster is an important benefit in itself, but your lawyer will also put a police report to good use when building your case.

Ways Your Lawyer Can Use the Police Report

A police officer’s observations in the report may indicate who is at fault, which can be a huge benefit to your case when dealing with the insurance company. If the other driver is clearly at fault, the insurance company may want to settle quickly in order to avoid the costs of litigation when it is clear they will need to pay up. You may be wondering what this means if the officer’s report indicates that you are at fault.

Even if you were partially at fault and that is reflected in the report, we have already discussed how partial fault does not bar you from receiving compensation in Rhode Island.

Regardless of fault or other worries you might have, the police report is going to be a valuable piece of evidence that can help you at trial. Don’t be scared into thinking that most cases need to go to trial. As I have mentioned previously, about 97 percent of the cases that I have handled have settled without the need for a trial.

That said, cases that go to trial tend to be complex, and you need to prove your case with evidence. In a complex case, a favorable police report can tilt the balance in your favor when used along with the testimony of an officer who was on the scene.

Additionally, if you were in serious condition and could not photograph evidence at the scene or talk to witnesses as we discussed when reviewing Mistake #1, the accident report may be the best piece of documented evidence your lawyer will have.

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