How to Fight and Change a False Accident Report
Amending a false report isn’t easy but if you follow certain steps, you can support your case and protect your interests in a settlement claim.
A car accident scene can be sensory overload, not just for the drivers involved but also for the police called to investigate its cause and to make sense of often conflicting information – maybe for the second or third time that day.
An inaccurate police accident report is not uncommon and, to be fair, almost always unintentional. Mistakes get made.
Police routinely investigate car accidents and file reports but frequency of duty doesn’t necessarily guarantee accuracy, especially when accidents involve multiple drivers, passengers and eyewitnesses.
Mistakes can include the transcription of eyewitness testimony, the accuracy of driver statements and myriad accident details covering everything from license numbers, make and model of the cars involved to the extent of property damage and injuries.
“Police have limited time, and their reports often reflect that situation,” Daniel Siegel, Secretary of the American Bar Association, Law Practice Division, said. “As a result, their reports are drafted quickly, may contain inaccuracies (generally unintentional), and most importantly, are hearsay documents not generally admissible at a trial or hearing.”
Whether or not your car accident settlement case reaches a jury trial – most don’t – it’s important to understand the process of fighting a false police report and whether hiring an accident attorney might help protect your interests.
Can a Police Report Be Changed After an Accident?
Amending a false police report is a real possibility but only if you can prove the report contains inaccurate information. And there can be challenges even then. It’s not as simple as making a phone call and requesting a fix.
Siegel cautions that because of time constraints and other issues, in most cases “trying to have a police officer revise a police report will not help.”
A better use of your time, if you’re contesting a major mistake or omission, is supporting your case by gathering as much documented evidence as possible and putting it in writing.
In general, getting a police report amended is easier if the contested details are factual – who was driving which car, license numbers, time of day, position of cars involved in the accident, etc.
Amending a police report isn’t nearly as likely if what you’re contesting is more subjective, such as the opinion of an eyewitness or the police about who was at fault.
Fixing Factual Errors
A mistake in noting the location of each car in an intersection or the extent of damage or bodily injury could directly affect an insurance company’s settlement offer. But factual mistakes need not be that blatant to want them corrected in a report.
Details about road conditions, speed limits, speed of the cars involved, weather and a visual depiction of the crash – often an officer’s drawing – can all affect insurance company settlement offers.
Why? Police reports, while inadmissible in most court cases, are often used as leverage by insurance companies in reaching settlements. Any confusion about the facts and findings can cloud the decision of an insurer and delay the settlement process.
Correcting Errors of Omission
Say you gathered the contact information of three eyewitnesses at the scene but not all of them could stick around. Police investigating the accident only included testimony from one of them.
If you believe the omitted eyewitnesses could help prove you weren’t at fault, you can contact the police and submit a statement providing the names and numbers of the eyewitnesses who weren’t included in the report.
Likewise, if the police failed to include an admission of fault by another driver involved in the accident, you’d want to do what you can to get that admission included in the report.
Accuracy counts, or at least it should, if your goal is to prove you didn’t cause the accident.
“It is more important for persons involved in accidents to take contemporaneous pictures, and, if needed, to retain an investigator to obtain detailed statements from actual witnesses whose testimony may be necessary,” Siegel said.
“Remember, the police officer who wrote the report did not witness the accident, so it’s helpful to document errors while focusing on compiling evidence to support you should it be needed later on.”
Changing Your Statement
The aftermath of an accident is hectic, even if major injuries, ambulances and tow trucks aren’t involved. There may be details you remember later. You may feel the police report misrepresents what you said, or at least meant to say.
John Marvin, attorney at Williams Law, P.A. in Tampa, suggests writing your own account of the accident and making a request to submit it as evidence with the police report. Because the evidence you present is likely disputable in the opinion of the police (and perhaps the other driver), Marvin cautions that your account “may not be included with the report.”
What else can you do? You can ask to have it attached to the report as a separate document. Marvin says another opportunity to “set the record straight” is during the recorded statements you make to insurance companies.
Disputing the Facts
You can dispute the findings of a police report entirely but it’s not easy and you will probably need to document your case to the nth degree if you hope to be successful.
The more you document the more convincing your overall request for an amended report might be. So make sure you include as much evidence as possible:
- The exact time or date of the accident
- Vehicle makes and models
- Who was in each vehicle
- The statements of drivers or witnesses
- The order of events leading up to the accident
- Degrees of injury and property damage
- Video, dashcam evidence.
Documenting accident details at the scene isn’t always possible, of course.
Let’s say you were injured in an accident and were taken by ambulance directly to the hospital. You later learn that the other driver has falsely told police you ran a red light. The police report includes a finding of fault or a citation based on the investigating officer’s documentation of the accident scene.
Another example: say a faulty traffic light played a role in an accident that points blame your way. You can try to dispute that finding and accompanying citation but will likely need surveillance camera footage or dashcam footage to help you make your case. It’s probably best at this point to contact an accident attorney who can advise you on whether or not you have a case.
In either example, Dmytro Kondratiev, CEO and Legal Board Advisor of LLC Services, advises drivers contesting false police reports to think creatively, using tools such as Google Street View or social media platforms to help gather evidence.
“You might consider posting about your experience and asking for help,” Kondratiev said. “This could potentially lead to someone coming forward with information or evidence that could help you contest the police report.
“With the right approach and some determination, you may be able to successfully contest a police report and get the findings amended in your favor.”
How to Dispute a Police Accident Report
Inaccuracies in police reports are most often unintentional. The first step toward a remedy is contacting the police department (on the non-emergency number) and asking to speak to the investigating officer.
Police may agree to change certain facts if the investigating officer acknowledges a mistake was made or if you can show through documentation that facts listed are incorrect.
Depending on department policy, the police may require that you submit proposed changes in writing so be ready to make your case with official documents and pictures if possible.
It’s always better to have a paper trail of your communications with police and insurance companies. The quicker version of that is email, so make sure to get the investigating officer’s email address and the email address of his or her supervisor.
Remember, you may not see the police report until a week or so after the accident. So, it’s crucial to gather as much evidence as possible, including contact information or involved drivers, passengers and eyewitnesses.
If the opportunity to gather evidence at the scene has passed, sit down and record as many facts as you can as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the less you might remember.
You don’t know at that point what the police report will say, which driver or drivers (if any) the police might find at fault or the extent of injuries resulting from the accident. All could be important parts of proving your case to an insurance adjuster (or in court) and ensuring you’re fairly compensated for property damage and bodily injury.
Significant injury or property damage is often the threshold for car accident attorneys taking a case. If it’s not worth their while financially, they’ll tell you. Just don’t assume a police report or eyewitness testimony will protect your interest in an accident scenario.
If you believe an accident report contains inaccurate information that unfairly leads to you being considered liable, a free consultation with an experienced accident attorney can help determine if getting a police report amended is a good strategy and whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.
- Simon, S. (2022, October 3) Car Accident Police Report: When & How To Get A Report. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/auto-accident/car-accident-police-report/
- N.A. (2019, February 18) Steps You Can Take To Correct A Mistake In The Police Report After Your Car Accident. Retrieved from https://braunslaw.com/blog/what-to-do-if-your-police-accident-report-is-wrong/
- Goguen, D. (ND) How to Amend and Fight a Police Report After a Car Accident. Retrieved from https://www.all-about-car-accidents.com/resources/auto-accident/fault-car-accidents/how-fight-a-police-report-accident-fault
- Crosley, T. (2021, June 23) Can You Fix an Inaccurate Police Report After a Crash? Retrieved from https://crosleylaw.com/blog/can-you-fix-an-inaccurate-police-report-after-a-crash/