Police officers have many responsibilities when responding to a wreck. They play a vital role after a wreck for both a criminal case and a civil one.
Rules vary some from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, officers respond to every wreck that gets a 911 call. When they arrive, their first priorities are securing the scene and ensuring that injured people receive medical attention if they need it. After taking care of these matters, they make written reports that often serve as incomplete official records.
The Accident Report
Officers interview the parties and look at the physical evidence at the scene to figure out what happened. Occasionally, they can’t take everyone’s statement because someone is in severe medical care. They are trained to evaluate a person’s statement for truthfulness and compare it to the scene, so not hearing from everyone involved doesn’t mean the report will be wrong.
Responding officers then examine the physical evidence at the scene, such as skid marks, and interview eyewitnesses. As for the physical evidence, officers observe and report. Based on everything they observe, the police officer then concludes what happened and issue a citation if they find someone broke a law in the wreck.
Attorneys use the police report and citation to begin their own investigation of the wreck. Many times, the police officer who first responded and drafted the report got it right. Not often, but it does happen, a responding officer makes a mistake when they investigate. A good attorney will look over the police report and speak with witnesses to confirm that the police report is accurate.
The police investigation doesn’t stop at the scene either. If the officer issued a citation, or the wreck was serious, they start investigating it further. Including downloading the vehicles’ “black box” data to check if something failed. They’ll also take the cell phones from the involved parties and download it to see if anything else contributed to the wreck.
Attorneys must also examine any electronic evidence, perhaps from a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. This device provides critical information about vehicle speed, bake application, steering angle, and other crash metrics.
Since victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in negligence cases, evidence is critical. A great attorney knows how to work with the police to find witnesses and evidence that others would miss.