Last time, we looked briefly at a report by the National Safety Council which found that many states don’t do enough to collect important information about motor vehicle crashes. As we noted last time, the report found that the state of Kentucky uses standardized crash report forms which only account for five of the 23 factors examined by the nonprofit.
Crash report forms, despite their current limitations in many states, can potentially be a useful tool for plaintiffs in motor vehicle accident cases. To be clear, they cannot be used as evidence in court, as they are generally fall within the category of inadmissible hearsay. A plaintiff could, however, use the law enforcement officers, agents or officials who conducted the crash investigation for testimony in their case.
One potential use for crash investigation reports is to negotiate an early settlement with the driver or drivers responsible for the accident. A crash victim who obtains an official crash report can work with an experienced attorney to communicate the findings of the report to the at-fault drivers, using those findings as leverage to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. This can work particularly well in cases where the facts in favor of the crash victim are strong and where going to court is undesirable. The potential costs and benefits of pursuing litigation should, however, always be carefully weighed before taking this approach.
Another potential use for crash investigation reports is to use the report in the discovery process. Discovery is the phase of litigation in which parties are able to request information from the other party in order to gather the information necessary to establish their claims. In formal discovery, parties have the backing of the court in requesting documents and receiving answers to questions. Crash investigation reports can help a part to know what questions to ask and what documentation to request, allowing for a stronger case.
An experienced attorney can help a crash victim to make the best possible use of crash investigation reports, and any other available evidence in motor vehicle accident litigation.