Police and other law enforcement investigators play an integral role in your Florida car accident injury claim. As Fort Lauderdale injury lawyers can explain, a traffic crash investigator provides a credible, unbiased and third-party documented observation of details like the date, time and location of an accident, names and contact information of everyone involved, description of injuries documented at the scene, descriptions of vehicles – down to the license plate and VINs. Investigators also provide details about any potential crash causes they may note, statements from witnesses and, if possible, those involved, road and weather conditions noted at the time of the collision and the nature and extent of any damages to personal or public property. They may even take photos or clips of video footage and sometimes in serious crashes or those involved in a DUI or other criminal investigation will continue to gather evidence even after they have left the scene.
Sometimes, citations for traffic violations will be issued, with conclusions drawn about who was at-fault for the Florida car accident.
But while police reports can be very persuasive and valuable in a crash case, they aren’t the only evidence considered, nor are they generally deemed the last word in any crash case. (In fact, the crash report itself is generally considered “hearsay,” and can’t be presented as evidence at trial absent the testimony of the officer who wrote it.)
Even if a police report clearly indicates who is at-fault, the auto insurance adjuster will nonetheless conduct their own investigation. Sometimes adjusters identify something an officer missed. Other times, the adjuster will reach an entirely different conclusion than the officer. In the event of this kind of dispute and a settlement can’t be reached between the two sides, the decision will rest with the court.
Car Accident Settlements Not Always Predicated on Police Reports
An example of this was seen recently in a Florida car accident wrongful death lawsuit settlement involving pro-tennis player Venus Williams. As reported by Reuters, Williams was involved in a car accident in Palm Beach Gardens that resulted in the death of a 78-year-old man who was a passenger in the sedan, driven by his wife, that collided with the SUV Williams was driving. The man suffered massive internal injuries and died in the hospital two weeks later.
The initial police report indicated Williams was at-fault for the crash for failure-to-yield. However, new evidence in the form of surveillance video from a nearby security camera captured the frame-by-frame of the crash. Police then amended the crash report, finding Williams lawfully entered the intersection and another car made a turn in front of Williams’ car, causing her to stop proceeding through the intersection as she had been. Then the front end of plaintiff’s vehicle slammed into the front end of Williams’. The police report concluded that the unknown “phantom vehicle” started a chain of events that led to the crash, and Williams was not at-fault.
Nonetheless, plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams, alleging her negligence led to the crash. Recently, it was reported Williams settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.
Although the case never went to trial, it goes to show that the conclusions of investigating officers don’t always predicate the outcome of the injury or wrongful death car accident claim. That’s why even if you’re cited for negligence in a crash – or the other driver isn’t – you should still speak to an experienced Fort Lauderdale car accident injury attorney as soon as possible following the collision.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Venus Williams, 2nd driver won’t be charged in fatal crash, police say, Dec. 21, 2017, By Faith Karimi, CNN
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Florida Uninsured Motorist Benefits Affirmed After Road Debris Deemed Left by “Phantom” Vehicle, Dec. 10, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog