New York Auto Accidents & Police Reports

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Contrary to what most of us believe, the police report that details a car accident doesn’t always provide all of the information needed, and in many cases, isn’t completely accurate. In fact, unless the police officer saw the accident personally, that report isn’t even allowed into evidence in New York. Here’s what you should know about police reports.

Getting the police report

We asked Ira Slavit, a New York attorney in practice for over 20 years whose firm concentrates its practice in personal injury matters and medical malpractice litigation, to explain how police reports are used in New York. He told us, “As far as the police report is concerned, obviously you want to get that because it will identify who was involved and help identify the insurance companies so that everyone can be put on notice that there’s a claim being made.”

Interpreting the police report

Slavit advises people not to be discouraged when they interpret the police report relating to their accident. He explained:

One piece of advice I would give is that sometimes when people pick up an accident report, they see what the officer wrote and can’t believe what they’re reading. It’s nothing like what they saw happen or what they told the police officer. People can get very discouraged by that. But very often, if the police officer is not an eyewitness to the actual accident, what the officer writes isn’t even admissible in court as evidence because it’s hearsay. They’re not there to say they saw somebody go through the red light.

What happens sometimes as the case progresses and the other driver is deposed, it’s obvious that the police officer got it wrong and the defendant driver is responsible for the accident. You can establish a case sometimes just by asking the right questions of the other driver even when the police report initially seems to indicate an unfavorable situation.

Be careful what you say

While Slavit recommends that anyone involved in a car accident get as much information about the party and vehicle involved and any witnesses as they can, he also told us that it’s often best not to give any statements and not to have any conversations at the scene of the accident, especially with the driver or occupants of another vehicle because those things may come back to be used against you.

If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident in New York, contact an experienced New York car accident attorney to discuss your situation confidentially.

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