If available, a police report is often the foundation of a successful negligence case. Police officers still command special respect among certain people. So, car crash eyewitnesses normally come forward to officers. Moreover, most officers are very experienced when it comes to working accident scenes. They know how to piece together the evidence into a complete picture. Finally, the reporting officer often issues a citation to one driver, and to one driver only.
But there are some significant drawbacks. Today’s police officers also inspire contempt and fear among many people. So, many witnesses may not voluntarily come forward. Furthermore, even a highly-experienced officer is not a professional accident reconstructionist.
Perhaps most importantly, in many cases, the police report is incomplete. If the victim was too injured to give a statement, the police report only contains one side of the story. First responders are not on the scene to gather evidence for a potential lawsuit. So, they seldom perform follow-up investigations.
How to Get an Orange County Accident Report
For individuals, obtaining a police report is a time-consuming and cumbersome process. The report may be unavailable for up to two weeks or even longer. Assuming the report is available, the request process is more like a Freedom Of Information Act request. FOIA matters usually go to the city attorney or through another legal review process before the agency holding the documents even sees the request.
Different agencies have different rules. Some sheriff’s office records may be legally protected and unavailable. Furthermore, if you go to the wrong agency, you hit a dead end. You must start the process all over with another agency, and then another one, and then another one, until you find the right one.
For attorneys, the process is usually much easier. Furthermore, at RMD Law, we do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. So, the request process is essentially free of charge. Basically, we jump through any legal or procedural hoops so you can spend your valuable time doing something else.
Orange County Attorneys Who Fill In the Gaps
As mentioned earlier, the police report is only a starting point, especially in serious injury crashes. At these scenes, first responders are often too busy securing the area and tending to injured victims to spend lots of time writing reports. This lack of information is a big problem for victim/plaintiffs. They have the burden of proof, and that means they need evidence. To obtain it, attorneys often partner with private investigators in areas like:
- Additional Witnesses: For various reasons, some people do not feel comfortable talking to police officers. If an investigator or attorney approaches them informally, they are much more willing to talk. Furthermore, many people don’t come forward because they only saw part of the accident. Their testimony is important as well, and a lawyer or investigator can find them.
- Surveillance Video: Unless the accident was a high profile case or a hit-and-run, officers seldom review nearby surveillance video. Even if they take this step, they usually only look at cameras which were at the scene. A camera a few blocks down the road often yields vital information.
- Electronic Evidence: One such example are the Electronic Logging Devices which most commercial vehicles have. ELDs automatically record the driver’s service hours. So, these gadgets are very useful in fatigued driving cases. Even if the driver technically complied with the law, many people are naturally sleepy at certain times. The ELD has this information as well.
Surveillance video and electronic evidence is very hard to challenge in court and it’s scientifically more reliable than eyewitness testimony. Plus, sophisticated Orange County jurors often respond well to a case that has lots of technical bells and whistles.
Evidence and California Insurance Company Defenses
While your attorney works hard for you, the insurance company has a posse of lawyers working hard as well. But these attorneys are committed to minimum compensation for victims. Many times, they look to legal defenses like:
- Contributory Negligence: If at all possible, the insurance company will shift blame for the accident onto the victim. For example, a lawyer might admit that the tortfeasor was speeding but argue that the victim’s illegal turn really caused the car crash.
- Sudden Emergency: In pedestrian accident cases, insurance companies almost always argue that the victim “darted out into traffic.” That makes it sound like the tortfeasor had no way to avoid the crash.
- Assumption of the Risk: In passenger injury cases, lawyers usually argue that the passengers should have known better than to get in a car with a reckless driver and therefore the tortfeasor is not legally responsible.
Evidence is the best way to beat these arguments. For example, if the insurance company tried to use the contributory negligence defense, an attorney can use evidence to show that the tortfeasor wasn’t just speeding a little, but that the tortfeasor barrelled through the intersection at a high speed.
Work With Tenacious Lawyers
The police report is a great starting point, but it’s only a starting point. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Orange County, contact RMD Law. We are eager to assist you throughout each step of your case.