A police report, often referred to a “crash report” in Texas, is a crucial document when it comes determining fault in an auto accident.
Therefore, if you find errors in your report and are now wondering, “Can a police officer change a police report?“…
The good news:
It’s possible; however, not easy and NOT guaranteed.
If you need to change your police report, read below and learn how to best challenge an incorrect police report yourself or hire a personal injury lawyer to do it for you.
FYI – Inaccuracies in police reports are quite common so make sure you get help interpreting the police report if can’t do it yourself.
But What Happens When That Police Report Contains Misinformation?
In today’s article, we will be explaining the concept of a police report and why these documents are so important. We’ll also be covering how to interpret a police report and challenge it if the information is inaccurate.
And if your uncomfortable with challenging a police officers police report you can hire a San Antonio auto accident lawyer to do it for you.
Crucially, we will be answering the question of whether a police officer can change a police report if misinformation comes to light.
What Is A Police Report?
First and foremost, what is a police report and what information does it contain?
A police report is a document filled out by a police officer who arrives at the scene of a crime or accident.
When the police officer arrives and proceeds to fill out the police report, they will usually speak to all parties involved in the incident to try and document a full picture of what happened.
In the case of a car crash, which is one of the most common everyday reasons for a police report to be filed, the police officer will try to build a narrative based on witness testimony and any other evidence available at the time.
The narrative should include where the accident happened, how it happened, and why it happened, including which party seems to be at fault.
Why are Police Reports Important in Personal Injury Cases?
In Personal Injury cases, an accurate police report is one of the most important pieces of evidence.
This is because, in any legal proceeding, you can’t just turn up and offer your version of events without any evidence to back it up. Because the police report is usually the first documentation of what happened at the scene of the accident, it will be more difficult for the case to proceed without it.
Of course, you can provide evidence in other forms, including any eyewitness testimonies or photographs that may have been taken. However, witness testimony a long time after the accident will typically be considered less reliable than a written account created at the scene.
It’s also important to bear in mind that the state of Texas bases the outcome of Personal Injury claims on the Comparative Fault Rule.
The Comparative Fault Rule allows the blame for an accident to be divided between parties in the form of percentages. So, for example, one party could be considered to bear 70% of the blame, while the other party shoulders the other 30%.
If one party drove through a red light immediately before the accident, for example, one might assume that they would be 100% responsible for the accident.
However, if the other party was driving slightly over the speed limit, they may be attributed a percentage of the blame as well because they may otherwise have been able to stop and avoid the accident.
Because of this rule under Texas law, a detailed police report is of the utmost importance. Without one, attributing an accurate percentage of responsibility to both parties involved in the car accident becomes more difficult.
How to Obtain and Interpret a Police Report
If you have been involved in an accident and want to claim compensation, it’s a good idea to secure a copy of the related police report at the earliest opportunity.
Obtaining a copy of the police report will help you to see if the information provided stands you in good stead to receive compensation and will also allow you to see whether any of the details are inaccurate.
If you were involved in a car crash in Texas, you’ll need to contact the Texas Department of Transportation and request a copy of the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report.
Be aware that while it’s best practice to request a copy of the report as early as possible (this gives you more time to prepare your claim and challenge any errors if necessary), it might take a couple of weeks after the accident for the report to be logged into the system.
For the most part, police reports are fairly easy to interpret in terms of the basic information provided.
The report should make clear where and when the accident happened. It should also outline factors such as the makes and models of all vehicles involved, personal and insurance details of all parties, what the weather and road conditions were at the time, and which speed limits were in place.
A visual representation of the crash, usually in diagram form, should also be provided. This is important, especially if there were no cameras in the area to capture the accident on film.
However, you may find that some of the information in the police report is given in code. There are codes in place for virtually every element of a police report. For example, code 17 refers to a collision involving an animal, while code 12 means that the accident involved a pedestrian.
Of course, if you’re not in a law-enforcement-related profession yourself, you cannot be expected to understand all of the codes used in police reports. Therefore, the Texas Department of Transportation should willingly provide you with a code sheet to help you interpret your police report.
Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report Code Sheet (CR-3)cr3_code_sheet
Why Might Police Reports Have Errors?
It might be comforting to believe that the professionals responsible for enforcing the law get things right 100% of the time. However, in reality, police officers are human beings and they are prone to error from time to time.
Unfortunately, this means that police reports sometimes contain errors, either due to a misunderstanding of the situation or a simple oversight. This is yet another reason to obtain a copy of the police report relating to your accident as soon as you can.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that much of a police report hinges on the testimonies of people who witnessed or were involved in the accident.
When it comes to something as crucial as the percentage split of fault attribution, it’s easy to see how an oversight from an eyewitness could lead to a police officer incorrectly attributing blame to the wrong party.
Because the testimonies of both parties involved in the accident, as well as those provided by eyewitnesses, can be clouded by shock in the moment, it’s also worth checking carefully through the sequence of events outlined in the report.
If you feel that anything has been recorded incorrectly, you should challenge the information that you believe to be false. This is especially important given that the events leading up to the accident will play a significant role in attributing fault, so any mistakes can be detrimental to your claim.
The date and time of the accident can be recorded incorrectly due to a simple oversight, but it’s still very important that the correct information is presented in court, so it’s vital to have errors like this corrected quickly.
If you’re trying to claim compensation for injuries you sustained in the accident, you will also need to check that the report includes accurate information about your injuries.
If your injuries are misrepresented in the report, or if new injuries have been discovered (through medical examinations) between the accident and you obtaining the report, you’ll need to make sure that the information is updated.
Basically, police reports can contain errors for a variety of reasons, ranging from simple administration mistakes that humans make every day to unreliable witness testimonies.
Any details that are recorded incorrectly on a police report should be challenged at the earliest opportunity because even the smallest misrepresentation can impact the outcome of your Personal Injury claim.
Please bear in mind that while amending a small administrative error, such as a missing figure in your Vehicle Identification Number, is fairly easy, this is not the case for all police report mistakes.
For example, if the accident was not your fault, but the police report attributes 50% of the blame to you, this will be much more difficult to correct. In the case of a more significant error, you should not only challenge the mistake but contact an attorney immediately.
How To Challenge an Incorrect Police Report
The point about contacting an attorney leads directly into the process of challenging an incorrect police report. However, this is only one of several necessary steps if you want the false information on the police report to be corrected.
The first thing you should do when you realize that the police report pertaining to your accident contains inaccurate information is to gather any evidence you might have to counter the false details.
In some cases, this is very simple. For instance, if your Vehicle Identification Number has been recorded incorrectly, all you need to do is provide the relevant documentation to prove that the information is inaccurate.
Other mistakes in the police report may be more difficult to correct and will need specific pieces of evidence (which you may or may not have) if they are to be disproved.
For example, if you took a photograph of the scene of the accident that disproves the visual diagram provided by the officer, you should definitely present this as evidence.
In the same scenario, not having a photograph would obviously make disproving the information more difficult.
In this case, you may need to rely on other forms of evidence such as eyewitness testimony or road camera footage to challenge the details in the report. This is where hiring an attorney becomes an important part of the process.
A very useful source of evidence that many drivers don’t even know about is the electronic data recorder. This is a system built into many modern vehicles that records factors like the speed of the vehicle, brake usage.
If the police report states that you were traveling over the speed limit, you can counter this claim as long as the data recorded by your vehicle proves otherwise.
Contact an Attorney
Regardless of how complicated or uncomplicated the process of challenging your police report seems from the outset, it’s a very good idea to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as you can.
Unfortunately, the legal system is not perfect, and you may face several blocks when you try to have information in the police report changed.
After all, a change in your police report means more paperwork in an already busy police department. This means that you may experience some resistance, which can be minimized with the help of an attorney.
Additionally, an attorney can help you to access and collect evidence that you may not be able to access yourself, such as footage from security cameras in the surrounding area.
Essentially, your chances of a positive outcome will be much higher if you have an attorney on your side throughout the investigation process, so securing legal assistance is one of the first steps we recommend taking when challenging a police report.
Request an Update
When you have gathered all of the relevant evidence, the next step is to contact the police department directly and request that the misinformation be amended.
Now, if the information that needs correcting is something as simple as your VIN, you shouldn’t have too many issues with the correction.
However, for more complex cases involving the need for additional evidence, you are likely to experience more pushback.
In these cases, it is recommended that you have your lawyer contact the police department on your behalf.
During the process of requesting alterations to the police report, you should save any emails or other communications between yourself and the police department.
Keep your end of the communication as professional and polite as possible, even if you encounter resistance, since this is the best way to achieve a favorable outcome.
Can a Police Officer Change a Police Report?
At the time of challenging information presented in the police report for your accident, it’s also important to consider what powers police officers do and do not have so that you can set appropriate expectations.
The short answer to ‘can a police officer change a police report?’ is yes. However, there is also a longer answer, which is more complicated.
While a police officer does have the power to amend information in a police report, especially as new information comes to light, they are not legally obligated to do so, especially if you are unable to provide contradicting evidence.
For example, you should not expect to walk into the police station and come out with an amended police report if you have no evidence to support the change.
A common example of such a situation would be if you have realized that your initial testimony contained errors due to the shock of the accident. Unfortunately, if you don’t have documents, photographs, or footage to back this up, a police officer is entirely within their rights to refuse to update the report.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Weight Do Police Reports Carry In Court?
A police report is considered a fundamental piece of evidence in a court of law because it contains written information obtained at the scene of an accident, which is invariably viewed as more valuable than witness testimonies produced after the fact.
If you consider the police report to be inaccurate, but you only have your own version of events to support your claim with no additional evidence, it is extremely unlikely that your testimony will overrule the report.
In summary, despite the potential for error, police reports are considered some of the most reliable pieces of evidence in Personal Injury cases.
Therefore, even if you have evidence to counter the details in the report, it’s best to consult an attorney without delay to increase your chances of a positive outcome.
How Long Does It Take To Update A Police Report?
How long it takes to update an inaccurate police report ultimately depends on how responsive the police department is to your claim. This, in turn, often hinges on how much evidence you have to counter the report.
Since it can sometimes take a couple of weeks for police reports to be put into the system in the first place, you can expect a wait of a few days before your report is updated – assuming that the information is fairly straightforward to amend.
For instance, a VIN error on your police report may not be updated on the system the very same day if the department is busy, but assuming that all goes smoothly, it shouldn’t take too long.
On the other hand, if drastic changes (such as changing the at-fault party) need to be made to the police report, the update is likely to take a lot longer.
This could be for various reasons, including a reluctance on the part of the officer to change the report or a lack of evidence to support the changes.
Where police report amends become more complicated, it’s best to keep communication open and ongoing (with the help of an attorney) to help the situation to progress more quickly. However, there really is no set timeline for this process.
Can You Sue a Police Officer For Lying On A Police Report?
If you know or suspect that a police officer has lied (deliberately falsified information on a police report), you have found yourself in quite a sticky situation.
The answer to this question is yes, you can sue a police officer for knowingly including inaccurate information on the police report relating to your accident.
However, this is much easier said than done because, in order to prove that the police officer lied on the report, you’ll need to provide evidence. This can be extremely difficult.
If a police officer has not deliberately, but negligently, filed an inaccurate police report, and then refuses to update the report despite reasonable evidence, you can instead sue that officer for negligence.
Suing a police officer for negligence due to inaccurate reporting is easier than suing them for misconduct (lying), but it’s still not an easy process. You will still need to prove that the mistake was due to negligence on the officer’s behalf.
Even though your chances of successfully suing an officer for negligence are higher than suing for misconduct, you will still probably have an uphill battle ahead of you, so your first step should be to speak with a lawyer.
Police officers are prone to error, just like the rest of us, which means that mistakes can crop up in police reports from time to time.
Luckily, police officers have the power to amend police reports when new or contradicting evidence comes to light. However, you’ll need to take certain steps to ensure that the information in your police report is updated in a timely manner.
After being involved in an accident, you should obtain a copy of the police report.
If you notice any errors, it’s important to gather any relevant evidence to support your case, speak to an attorney, and present your evidence to the police department without delay.