Matthew B. Troutman
Does the investigating Police Officer determine who is at fault in a motor vehicle accident?
In the state of Kentucky, the investigating police officer prepares a detailed report for each accident that he or she investigates and on the report the officer will indicate if any of the drivers were at fault for causing the accident. They will indicate this decision in the narrative portion of the report and/or under the "human factors," category on each driver's page of the report. You may be surprised to know that in a court of law, the investigating police officer is not allowed to give their opinion on the fault issue unless they are qualified as an accident reconstruction expert. He or she is allowed to testify about what they observed at the scene of the accident and what the driver's told them about how the accident happened, but their opinion on the matter is not allowed.
Despite the fact that an investigating police officer cannot testify regarding fault in the courtroom, practically speaking, insurance companies and lawyers rely on the police officer's fault determination in resolving a majority of all accident claims. When a prospective client calls me about a claim, the first thing that I do is obtain a copy of the police report to make sure that the police officer determined the other driver to be at fault. If the police officer has determined my client to be at fault, then it isnecessary for me to find witness testimony or physical evidence that will contradict the police officer's determination or that claim will not be successful. In the more serious accidents, police officers take photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles and sometimes they have a body camera video. The information provided on the photos and video can provide helpful information to overcome the police officers determination of fault.
Police officers can make mistakes on a police reports. If you have been determined to be at fault, contact an auto accident lawyer to see if additional information can be found to overcome the police report. Police officers sometimes fail to interview drivers, who have been taken from the scene in an ambulance and they can fail to interview witnesses. Rarely, will a police officer change a report once it has been written, but it can still be overcome if you have convincing witness testimony and/or physical evidence.