Police reports are created in the normal course of investigations, especially after car accidents. These reports are important for building an injury case, but can they actually be introduced as evidence in your injury case?
Usually, police reports are not admissible as evidence in Arkansas. That means that you cannot read a police report into the record and have the jury use the facts written in the report when making their determination about who was at fault and how much your injuries are worth. However, there are some ways that a police report can still be very helpful.
For help with your injury case, contact our Fayetteville personal injury lawyers today. We offer free case reviews and can help you obtain and understand your police reports. Call us at (479) 316-0438.
Can You Use a Police Report as Evidence in an Injury Lawsuit in Arkansas?
What evidence is and is not allowed is governed by the Arkansas Rules of Evidence. Generally speaking, evidence needs to be relevant to be introduced. That means that our Bentonville personal injury lawyers must show it provides information related to the questions at hand: who injured you, what happened, and how much harm did it cause you?
A police report will often have a lot of relevant information that our attorneys can use, especially for car accidents:
- Where the accident happened
- When it happened
- What events led up to the accident
- Who was involved
- What injuries resulted
However, a police report usually cannot be introduced as evidence in an injury case in Arkansas.
Rule of Evidence 802 excludes all “hearsay” from being admissible. Rule 801 defines hearsay as a statement made outside of courtroom testimony that is offered to prove that what the statement says is true. For example, a journal entry that says “Jeff tripped Alex last week” could not be used as evidence to prove that Jeff indeed tripped Alex last week. The law instead requires you to have the people involved come in and testify under oath about what happened.
There are a few exceptions that are carved out of the definition of hearsay and some other situations where hearsay is still reliable enough that it is allowed in as evidence anyway. For example, a statement by the other party is not considered hearsay and may be admitted as evidence because the other party is there in court to correct the record if there are any doubts about the statement’s truth.
Police Reports as Hearsay
Police reports cannot be used as evidence that what they say happened actually happened because those reports are out-of-court statements. That makes them inadmissible hearsay.
Two of the exceptions that people try to apply to police reports come under Rule of Evidence 803, specifically subsections 6 and 8. Rule 803(6) allows “records of regularly conducted business” to be used as evidence because those records are reliable indicators of how the business happened. However, this exception does not apply to police reports. Additionally, Rule 803(8) allows public records to be used – but it specifically excludes “investigative reports by police” and other “investigative reports” by the government from being used.
Without an applicable exception to the hearsay rules for police reports, they simply are not allowed as evidence. But there are some additional ways our Farmington personal injury lawyers can still make these reports useful.
Other Ways to Use Police Reports in an Arkansas Injury Case
Even though police reports cannot be admitted as evidence in an injury case in Arkansas, there are many ways that insurance companies and Arkansas personal injury lawyers use these reports. Outside of court, these reports are still a good source of evidence to prove that the accident indeed happened and that it was serious enough to report the accident. Additionally, it provides a good summary of all of the information we need about who was involved, what happened, etc.
Building Your Case
This makes a police report a good tool for building your injury case. Our Harris personal injury lawyers can essentially use the police report as a roadmap to help us build your case. We can take the info there and look for other sources that are admissible to supply that info in court, such as your testimony, witness testimony, and potentially even testimony from the police officer.
Although a police report might not be admissible as evidence that what the report says is true, even hearsay can be used to challenge what a witness says. If the evidence is being used to challenge or “impeach” a witness’ testimony, it is not being offered for the truth of the matter asserted, so it isn’t considered “hearsay” for that purpose.
This allows you to use police reports to challenge what a witness says on the stand. For example, imagine the officer’s report says that the defendant told them they were looking at their cell phone when the crash happened. If the defendant testifies in court that they were not looking at their phone, you can use their previous statement to the officer to challenge the truthfulness of their current testimony, even though the police report isn’t itself admissible.
Police officers often deal with many different cases, and it can be hard for them to remember what exactly happened in your case. If you have the officer in court to testify, your Rogers personal injury lawyer can use the police report to help the officer refresh their recollection of what happened. If they can’t remember specific details, you can have them review the report and then continue testifying after they’ve had a chance to remember what happened – but they cannot read the report into the record.
In fact, any witness can have their recollection refreshed with any document, meaning anyone can really use the police report to remember what happened. However, they must have an independent memory of the events in the first place.
Call Our Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyer Today
For a free review of your potential injury case, call our Springdale personal injury lawyers today. Our phone number is (479) 316-0438.