Admitting police reports into evidence in a personal injury case being litigated in California’s courts is not as clear-cut as you would expect. Does this mean you should disregard the police report? Of course not!
The police report contains a great deal of information that you may not otherwise have. For example, if you were seriously injured in the accident and weren’t physically capable of exchanging insurance information with the other driver, the police officer may have obtained that information and written it into the accident report. Or, the investigating officer may have located witnesses to the collision and identified these people in the report. Another example is the police officer may have interviewed the other driver and put their statement in the report. There are a number of other reasons why the police report is such a valuable tool. For these reasons, if a police report was drafted, you need to get a copy and review the contents of the report.
Small Claims Court
California’s small claims courts may allow litigants (plaintiffs and defendants) to use police reports as evidence in their car accident cases. The small claims judge will not expect you to know all the rules of evidence, so judges may allow plaintiffs and defendants to use the police report in explaining what happened. It is common that judges will ask to see the police report at the hearing, so have a clean copy ready and available.
Admitting police reports into evidence in California’s other civil courts (such as limited civil and unlimited civil jurisdiction) may be a somewhat more involved task. Police reports, by definition, constitute hearsay evidence. Any assertion made in a police report is a statement that was made out of court — hence hearsay. For that reason, you may have to contend with California’s many hearsay exceptions to attempt to admit the police report (or parts of the report). Alternatively, it may be wise to subpoena the investigating police officers to testify about their investigation to otherwise attempt to get the information contained in the police report into evidence.