When you are involved in an automotive collision, motor vehicle reports become a crucial source of evidence. These reports document many of the details you may have missed in the chaos of a car crash. However, there is always a chance that an error is present in your motor vehicle report. As a resource for auto accident victims, the attorneys at Casey Devoti & Brockland provide a rundown on motor vehicle reports and how to fight against a motor vehicle report error.
Defining Motor Vehicle Reports
A motor vehicle report is a police report that provides a detailed record of what happened prior to, during and after a car crash. It typically includes:
- The involved parties. This information ideally includes the names and contact information of those involved in the crash.
- Insurance information. This information includes the name of their insurers, their policy number and the status of their liability insurance.
- Potential witnesses. The officer will document the names, addresses and phone numbers of those who witnessed the scene.
- The circumstances around the crash. These details typically include the location, the presence of signage or lights, the road conditions and other contributing factors. It will never say who caused the collision — it will list reasons such as obstructed vision, failure to yield or crossing the centerline.
Though it is possible there is a motor vehicle report error, these reports typically contain the facts of the case rather than assumptions. For example, a report could describe a collision between two motorists that occurred at an intersection while it was raining. One car failed to stop at a stop sign and struck another vehicle. Though simplified heavily, this information reveals how the collision occurred, who may have caused the crash and what circumstances could have contributed.
In Missouri, the report used by both the highway patrol and most local municipalities has a diagram for the investigating officer to draw the intersection, any circumstances out of the ordinary and how the crash happened. The diagram may show the location of the vehicles, their path before colliding and what happened after impact. However, the contents ultimately depend on officer training and the nature of the report.
Typically, officers will not take photos of the scene. You cannot rely on this evidence to disprove a motor vehicle report error. Death on a state highway is the only exception to this. In the event of a death, specialized troopers with unique experience and education will take photos as a part of a reconstruction report.
Obtaining Your Report
The first step after a car crash is obtaining your motor vehicle report. A report is crucial during any investigation and your lawyer should make the request for you. A hired attorney will always handle gathering evidence by contacting the agency that investigated your crash and paying the appropriate fee.
You can still pursue a case later on, even if you did not report it initially — you would need to at least document the other driver’s name. From there, it would be up to your lawyer to build a case.If the police do not investigate the crash at the scene, we recommend that you document the most basic information typically included in a motor vehicle report. Snap a photo of the other license plate so you may track them down later. If possible, photograph the damaged areas on each car and photograph the surrounding area before the scene changes.
Identifying a Motor Vehicle Report Error
Most departments fill out a complete and thorough report, but your experience may differ across locations. Police departments in highly populated areas with high crime rates often omit crucial information. We often see errors of omission where an officer fails to document witnesses at the scene, making your case much more challenging. However, the vast majority of mistakes we see boil down to human errors, including:
- Miswriting a number.
- Misreporting of auto insurance details.
- Misattribution of a statement. This is when an officer attributes a statement to a driver at the scene yet they claim to have not said that. There is not much you can do in this scenario.
Typically, the only thing you may do if you identify a motor vehicle report error is to reach out to the department that initially took your report and request an addendum. An addendum is an addition or correction of information to the existing motor vehicle report. However, do not place too much stock in this — the department may or may not accept your request.
Our Legal Recommendations
We recommend you always call the police immediately after a car crash. An officer will come and give you a card with both drivers’ names, contact info, insurance details and a complaint number. This document provides verification that you were involved in a crash and that the police reported it. A motor vehicle report error is not the end of your case — talk to an attorney about the next steps you can take. If you feel there was a mistake in your motor vehicle report, contact Casey Devoti & Brockland for a free consultation.