Why The Jury Doesn’t Get To See The Police Report
Every car crash should have a police report. This includes truck crashes and rideshare crashes such as Uber, Lyft, and door dash, etc.
Typically, a police officer gets word of the crash and rushes to the scene. The officer will check to see if there are any immediate injuries and then take statements from the drivers.
Back at the station, the police officer will fill out the police report which will include some of the most important information such as the time and location of the crash. It will describe the weather and what parts of the cars were damaged. It will include the names, addresses, insurance companies of the drivers. Sometimes, it will have statements from independent witnesses.
This information is very important for the lawyers who first look at the case. During the lawsuit, there will be depositions and the lawyers will ask the drivers questions about what is in the police report. If there is a settlement conference, the mediator or judge will probably look at the police report. If the case goes to trial, the trial judge will probably look at the police report.
The police report is one of the most important documents in the lawsuit, but the jury will never get to see it. Why?
The Reason Why
Because a jury is only supposed to hear evidence that the court thinks is reliable. For example, a defendant in a car crash case cannot say something like this to the jury: “I know the plaintiff crashed into me because some guy told me in a restaurant last week?” We all know that statement is not reliable – we don’t know who the guy in the restaurant is and we can’t bring him into court to get to the bottom of what he really knows. When you hear a lawyer on TV shouting “Hearsay!!! Hearsay, Your Honor, c’mon— it’s Hearsay!!!,” that’s the kind of thing they are objecting to.
It is the same with the police report. The police officer did not see the crash happen. The cop is simply taking a record of what he or she was told and what he or she learned from investigating the crash.
However, a cop can be called as a witness at trial. The cop can testify as to what he or she saw and what the drivers said. The cop can read the police report ahead of time to prepare to testify in front of the jury. And if the cop forgets some detail from the crash, the police report can be used to refresh the cop’s memory.
And that is much more reliable. The jury gets to see and hear from the cop to decide if the cop’s memory is believable. If the jury read the police report without ever hearing the cop testify, they might just believe all that is written in the report. That would not be fair to the drivers. Some jurors trust cops and some don’t trust them at all. Some jurors think that cops are experts and what a cop says is gospel. Other jurors think that cops are automatically corrupt. The courts need to strike a balance and stop these biases from coming into the jury’s decision.
Of course, if you have been in a crash, you should get a copy of that police report as soon as possible. It will give your lawyer the information required to start a lawsuit. But remember, police reports will not contain all the information that is important. For example, a police report usually does not tell you whether the crash involved an Uber driver or Lyft driver. These are very important issues because they will determine the coverage for your injuries. This is one of the reasons the jury does not get the police report– because the jury is not supposed to know if the drivers have insurance!!!
Such is the way of the law and jury trials!
Injured in a car, truck or rideshare accident in New Jersey? Reach out to professional lawyers in Personal Injury such as Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC.