Many people believe that if the police report says that the crash was their fault that they don’t have a case. That is often true—but not always. Police officers and highway patrolmen are not always right in their assessment of fault. First, law enforcement officers are humans just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. Sometimes, they simply misapply the law (or misunderstand what the applicable law is in a specific situation). Sometimes they misapply the facts to the law. Second, they are not attorneys so they may not understand the technicalities and intricacies of the law. It’s not their fault. I don’t understand all of the technicalities and intricacies of being a law enforcement officer.
For example, I represented a person that was crossing a street and was hit by a car. My client sustained a depressed skull fracture with resulting brain injury. The police officer saw that my client was combative and slurring her speech. He assumed she was drunk. He put in the police report that the driver had done nothing wrong and that the incident was caused by my drunk client. However, in the police report, the officer put his measurements of where my client was in the street when she was struck and where the driver’s car was at the point of impact. My investigation revealed that the driver was traveling on the wrong side of the road when my client was hit. The officer had the correct measurements. He just misapplied them. He made the mistake of believing that my client was drunk. She wasn’t. The hospital records showed that my client’s blood was tested for alcohol and she had no alcohol in her body. Her slurred speech and combativeness was caused by her brain damage that occurred from the impact. We were able to settle the case for the driver’s entire insurance policy limits.
In another case, the highway patrol report stated that my client had run a stop sign and was hit broadside by another vehicle. My client died at the scene. The family was distraught and was convinced that she would never run a stop sign. My investigation revealed that my client had, in fact, ran the stop sign and drove into the intersection where she was hit and killed. The highway patrol report stated that the cause of the collision (and my client’s death) was her running the stop sign. The report also stated that the driver of the other vehicle was not at fault. The report was wrong. Certainly, my client ran the stop sign. Certainly, running the stop sign was a cause of the crash. But it was not the cause of the crash under the law. My investigation uncovered that the other driver did not have a driver’s license. The law in Oklahoma was that not having a driver’s license is not the cause of an accident. Nevertheless, the Oklahoma legislature had recently passed a law making it negligent homicide to be involved in a car crash that results in death if you don’t have a driver’s license. But how would that help my client’s case since the Oklahoma Supreme Court had held that a crash isn’t caused by the lack of a driver’s license? Since one cannot be held criminally responsible for negligent homicide unless one negligently causes the death, it was my opinion that the legislature had “overridden” the Oklahoma Supreme Court when it passed the negligent homicide law pertaining to driver’s licenses. Despite the undisputed fact that my client did run the stop sign, we were able to settle the case for the other driver’s entire insurance policy limits.
Police officers’ and highway patrol officers’ reports are usually accurate. But not always. Just like the rest of us, sometimes they get it wrong. If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious crash and you have reason to believe that the crash report is wrong and it wasn’t your fault, we will be happy to look into it to see what really happened. Call the Scott Ray Law Firm at (580)248-5557.