Police reports frequently have mistakes. Sometimes, if the incorrect information is obvious, the police officer who wrote the police report may be willing to correct it if you contact the police officer immediately. You can go to the police precinct and ask to speak to the police officer.
This article will give you information on how to amend a police report for a car accident in New York to change or correct mistakes in the police report.
If you’re reading this article, you probably already have the police report for your car accident but if not, see how to get a copy of a police report in New York City or how to get a copy of a police report in Nassau or Suffolk.
When Should You Try to Correct Errors in a Police Report?
If you were not injured in a car or motorcycle accident and you are trying to get the other car’s insurance company to pay for your damage, you can continue to read this article to find out what you can do to correct a police report.
If you were injured in a car accident, motorcycle accident, or pedestrian accident and the police report has errors you want to correct, call us before you try to get the police report corrected, and do not fill out an MV-104 without speaking with us. We will do it for you to make sure it can’t hurt your personal injury case.
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Is It a Problem if a Police Report Is False, Wrong, Incorrect, or Has Errors?
Your Insurance and Insurance Premium
If the police report is wrong, it can be a problem for you with regard to your insurance and insurance premiums. For instance, if a mistake on a police report concerns who is at fault for the car accident, it can result in your insurance being canceled or an insurance premium increase.
Getting the Other Car’s Insurance to Pay For Your Collison Damage
If you were not injured and you are trying to get the other car’s insurance company to pay for your damage, it will be a problem for you if the mistake concerns who is at fault for the car accident.
Your Personal Injury Case
If you were injured, a mistake on a police report can delay the settlement of your personal injury case, but it usually will not affect the outcome of the settlement of your personal injury case.
We have several opportunities to prove the police report is wrong:
- We will force the other driver to file an MV-104, and often, the other driver inadvertently admits fault in the MV-104.
- We can question the other driver at a deposition.
- If necessary, we can cross-examine the police officer at a hearing or trial.
A police report is hearsay evidence and may or may not result in that information being used at trial.
We have frequently proved the police report was wrong by questioning the other driver at a deposition. When the other driver testifies at a deposition to something that admits 100% fault, we no longer care about the police report.
For instance, if the other driver testifies that he or she didn’t see your car or motorcycle prior to the collision, the other driver just admitted 100% fault.
We have also proved the police officer was wrong by cross-examining the police officer.
In one case, a police officer testified that our client told him she lost control of her motorcycle on sand and gravel and was not hit by a car. After cross-examining the police officer, the Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge gave the police officer a stern warning and ruled that the police officer’s testimony wasn’t credible; he lied! We won the case.
Types of Police Reports
Police Accident Report
When people refer to a police report, they usually mean a police accident report for a motor vehicle accident. In New York State, a police accident report is Form MV-104A.
Driver’s Accident Report
In New York State, the driver’s accident report is an MV-104.
A police report where the police respond to someone who was injured but not in a car accident is called a Police Aided Report.
What is the Difference Between an Amended or Corrected Police Report?
There are subtle differences. Technically, the word amended would be used for a minor change, but the words corrected and amended are commonly used interchangeably.
If a police report is changed, it will be marked as an amended police report.
2 Types of Mistakes in Police Reports
The two types of mistakes in police reports are factual and disputed facts, such as how the car accident happened. That type of disputed fact is really just opinion. Some information may appear to be factual but are really an opinion because the police officer didn’t witness the car accident.
An example is the direction of travel of the cars. This is not factual unless the police officer witnessed the car accident and actually saw which direction the cars were traveling in. The police officer has to enter his opinion based on an investigation of the facts.
- Factual information such as:
- Date or time of the accident
- Misspellings of names
- Incorrect address or license plate
- Place where the accident happened
- Opinion information such as:
- How the accident happened
- Who caused the accident
- Direction of travel
Factual information is the easiest to correct on a police report. Opinion information is very unlikely to be changed.
Some information doesn’t really matter, such as insurance information. If old insurance information is listed on the police report and you got a ticket, you can get a letter from your insurance company stating that you had insurance coverage on the date of the accident and submit that letter to the court. If you want to update DMV, you can do that on an MV-104 (see below).
Are Police Officers Allowed to Correct or Amend a Police Report?
Yes, but police officers rarely amend a police report.
Are Police Officers Required to Correct or Amend a Police Report?
No. Commonly unknown, even by lawyers, is that in New York State, police accident reports are not made for insurance companies or for the drivers, passengers, or pedestrians involved in a car accident. Police accident reports are made for the New York State DMV for statistical purposes.
That means that the police department has no legal obligation to you to include correct information or to amend a police report.
The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, held in 2015 that NYPD was not liable for failing to properly investigate the accident unless there existed a special duty to the plaintiff, in contrast to a general duty owed to the public Bouet v. City of New York.
In that case, the police officers failed to record the identity of the owner and operator of the vehicle that struck the plaintiff, who was a pedestrian. The pedestrian sued New York City and the NYPD police officers, alleging they were negligent in failing to include in the police report the identity of the individuals who owned and operated the car that struck her.
Reasons Why Police Reports Have Mistakes
Police reports have mistakes more often than people know. We see it all the time.
Police officers make mistakes just like everyone else. The police report is supposed to be reviewed by a police supervisor at the precinct before being filed, but many police reports still have errors.
Many errors on a police report can be difficult, if not impossible, for a supervisor to spot. Missing information is the easiest to spot, but incorrect information may not be possible for a supervisor to detect.
We have seen police reports with glaring errors such as mixing up the cars and drivers, an incorrect direction of travel, and a road diagram that was not even similar to the road where the car accident happened.
A horrible frequent error is police officers who let drivers go without including their information in the police report when the car did not make physical contact with the car on the police report. This happens when a car cuts off another car or motorcycle.
There are many reasons a police report may have a mistake. Following are a few of the reasons why mistakes occur in police reports:
The Police Officer Did Not See the Accident Happen
Because the police officer likely did not see the accident happen, the police officer has to do an investigation consisting of the following:
- Look at the accident scene
- Look at the location and positioning of the cars involved in the accident
- Look at the damage to the cars involved in the accident
- Look at the demeanor of the drivers and witnesses, and
- Speak to the drivers and witnesses and possibly get statements.
The Police Officer Didn’t Understand the Accident Scene
The police officer may make many different mistakes, from thinking the accident scene is different than it actually is or incorrectly writing down what was said to the police officer.
The Cars Were Moved From the Accident Scene
The cars may have been moved to the side of the road, making it harder for the police officer to determine what happened.
Police Officer Bias
When there is conflicting information and little physical evidence to rely on, other factors, such as bias, may influence a police officer.
The police officer may believe or not believe a driver or witness because of bias or misinterpreting the demeanor of a driver or witness. Always be on your best behavior and be polite when you speak with the police officer.
Example of a Police Report That Was Incorrect
Interestingly, most police reports with errors that we have seen are from New York State Police. I don’t know why but I can’t remember seeing a police report written by a New York State Trooper that did not have a mistake.
A police report that was filed by a New York State Trooper on the Sagtikos Parkway in Suffolk County on Long Island, NY, showed a merge lane to the parkway that does not exist.
The New York State Trooper claimed our client’s motorcycle improperly merged onto the parkway and struck a car on the parkway. However, our client’s motorcycle did not merge onto the parkway.
Our client’s motorcycle entered the parkway, where the parkway went from two lanes to three lanes. Our client’s entrance lane was not a merge lane because the entrance lane became the third lane on the parkway.
Our client’s motorcycle was traveling straight in the right lane when a car in the middle lane improperly changed lanes and struck our client’s motorcycle in the right lane, causing his motorcycle accident and his injury.
How Did a New York State Trooper Make a Glaring Mistake on the Police Report?
Probably because the Trooper mistakenly pulled up a diagram map from the police computer, which showed a normal merge lane, and the Trooper never noticed that the accident scene didn’t look anything like the diagram.
The Trooper then proceeded to complete the report while looking at the diagram rather than the roadway.
What Problems Did the Mistake on the Police Report Cause?
The claims representative from the insurance company for the car unbelievably argued that the police report said the accident was our client’s fault, even though I provided photos of the accident scene proving the police report was obviously wrong.
We were able to convince the insurance company we were right, so unbelievably, they changed their driver’s story! They then claimed the accident was a 1/4 mile further down the highway.
We had to file a personal injury lawsuit and ask the other driver questions at his deposition. After his deposition, we were able to force the insurance company for the car to pay their entire insurance policy.
So what did the mistake on the police report cause? It delayed the settlement of the motorcycle accident case by almost two years.
How to Correct a Police Report After a Car or Motorcycle Accident
Sometimes, if there is a glaring factual error on a police report, a police officer might correct the police report. Most of the time, police officers in New York will refuse to amend a police report and tell you to file an MV-104.
If there is a factual error on a police report, go to the police precinct and provide any documentation to prove the error should be corrected.
For instance, if the damage to the car was incorrectly reported as on the right front of the car but was actually on the left, provide a photo showing the damage on the left and a photo showing no damage on the left. If the make, model, or year of your car is incorrect, you can show your registration to the police officer.
If you were injured in a car or motorcycle accident, but the police report shows you didn’t have any injuries and you were not taken to the hospital by ambulance from the car accident scene, don’t even bother to try to get the police report corrected.
The police officer won’t correct the police report for injuries because, right or wrong, it was his opinion that you were not injured.
If you were injured and were taken to the hospital by ambulance from the car accident scene, but the police report shows you had no injuries, then provide a copy of the ambulance report.
What to Do if the Police Officer Refuses to Correct or Amend The
So, how can you correct a police report if you think it is incorrect and the police officer refuses to correct the police report?
The only thing you can do is file a driver’s accident report called an MV-104 with the New York State DMV.
Your written statement can include your personal account of the accident, including a diagram. But we don’t recommend that you do that.
Your insurance company and the insurance company for the other driver probably sent you an MV-104 accident report, but you can also download an MV-104 accident report. See our complete guide on how to fill out an MV-104 accident report in New York which also shows you where to download the MV-104 form.
If you were injured in a car or motorcycle accident and the police report has errors, and you want to amend a police report, call us before you try to get the police report corrected.
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