Are Police Reports Admissible in Injury Cases in Philadelphia?
After an accident, the police may investigate the situation while rendering emergency aid to those who need it. Once an investigation is complete, the police usually write a detailed report. While police reports might be deep wells of evidence and information, they are not always admissible in court.
Police reports are incredibly important in injury cases in Philadelphia because they might shed light on how an accident occurred and who is responsible. While a police report might seem like the most important piece of evidence, they are often inadmissible in court. Police reports are typically written by police officers whose knowledge of a case results from an investigation and is not considered personal or first-hand. As a result, police reports are inadmissible hearsay. Even so, various exceptions to the rule against hearsay exist, and some of them might apply to police reports in your injury case.
To discuss your injury case in a free case review with our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940.
Why Police Reports Are Important in Philadelphia Injury Cases
Police reports are an integral part of many injury cases. Police reports are often the results of extensive investigations by experienced law enforcement officials, and the information in a police report is often regarded as trustworthy.
Police reports are often important to various legal actions and claims after an accident. For example, if you file an insurance claim after an accident, the insurance company will want proof that the accident happened and the injuries you sustained. Police reports are often used to establish these important details. In fact, insurance companies often require claimants to submit copies of police reports as part of a claim.
Police reports are also important in lawsuits. In many cases, the police report is the only record of what happened at an accident scene. Plaintiffs heavily rely on police reports to find evidence, support their claims, and get compensation for their injuries.
Using the Police Report as Evidence in Philadelphia Injury Cases
Using police reports as part of your injury case might be far easier said than done. While the report might contain valuable information and evidence that could help you prove your claims, it probably cannot be used.
Police reports are compiled by police officers who likely did not witness the accident or incident take place, and most of the information they have is based on investigations, not first-hand knowledge. As such, police reports are typically considered inadmissible hearsay.
Hearsay evidence is broadly defined as evidence from others not on the witness stand that cannot be authenticated or substantiated. For example, if someone testified that they know the defendant caused your accident and injuries because they know someone who saw the accident, their testimony would be hearsay. Instead, the person who actually saw the accident and has first-hand knowledge should be on the witness stand. Police reports are similar in that they contain valuable information, but the information is usually gathered from actual witnesses and other people with first-hand knowledge.
Instead, many plaintiffs in injury cases use police reports as guides to find other admissible evidence. The police report might contain information from eyewitnesses to an accident, and those witnesses’ names and contact information might also be in the report. We can use this information to contact the witnesses directly and get them to testify.
When You Can Use Police Reports as Evidence in Injury Cases in Philadelphia
While the hearsay rule is broad and far-reaching, it is not without exceptions. In fact, the hearsay rule famously has many exceptions, and a lot of hearsay evidence might still be admissible. Several of these exceptions might apply to police reports.
Records of Regularly Conducted Activity
According to Rule 803(6) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence, hearsay evidence may be admissible if it consists of records of regularly conducted activities. This is sometimes called the business records exception, as business records tend to be records of regularly conducted activities of the business. However, records do not necessarily have to pertain to a business to fall under this exception.
The evidence must meet specific criteria to be admissible under this exception to the hearsay rule. First, the records must be made close in time to the information or event being recorded by someone with personal knowledge.
Second, the records must have been maintained as part of regularly conducted activities of the business. A business is broadly construed to include various institutions, associations, organizations, and occupations. Additionally, the business need not be for profit.
Third, the keeping of the records should be a regular activity. If a business does not normally bother to record certain kinds of activities, a record of those activities might not be admissible.
Fourth, the witness whose testimony is used to enter the records into evidence must be able to explain how the records meet the above qualifications. Generally, a custodian of the records (e.g., a police officer for police reports) testifies about where and how the records are assembled and maintained.
Finally, records of regularly conducted activity may be admitted into evidence in exception to the hearsay rule if the defendant in your case cannot establish that the records are untrustworthy.
Police reports might also fall under the hearsay exception for public records. According to Rule 803(8), public records include records from public offices and agencies, including the police. The records should contain information about actions taken by public officials (i.e., the police officers) and the matter observes (i.e., the investigation into your case).
The recordings must have been part of the official duties of the public office. Because police departments regularly write reports regarding various investigations, a police report is generally considered a part of the police department’s public duties.
Finally, the defendant should not be able to show that the reports are untrustworthy. Considering that police reports are based on professional investigations by experienced law enforcement officials, defendants often have difficulty proving they are untrustworthy.
Contact Our Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys About Your Case Today
Our Media, PA personal injury lawyers are available to discuss your case in a free case review, call The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 709-6940 today to schedule a case review.