People injured in accidents or by someone’s intentional conduct might rely on police reports about the incident when taking legal action. While police reports are full of useful information, they might not be entirely admissible as evidence in civil court.
Much of the information in police reports constitutes hearsay, which is typically inadmissible in a personal injury case. However, police reports might be admitted as evidence under exceptions to the hearsay rule. Still, portions of the police report might be inadmissible, and you should check with an attorney before using the report in your case. Even if it is inadmissible, the report might still be useful when examining witnesses to impeach someone or refresh their memory of events. It can also be used to find other admissible evidence.
The police report about your injuries is useful, but getting it into court might be hard. Our Maryland personal injury attorneys can help you use the report to your advantage. For a free case review, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.
Can Police Reports Be Used as Evidence in Maryland Injury Cases?
There are strict rules about what can and cannot be admitted as evidence in a trial, and police reports are often difficult to get into court. While the rule against hearsay is strict, it is not without exceptions. Our Ocean City personal injury attorneys can help you determine if the police report about your injuries fits an exception to the hearsay rule.
Under the Maryland Rules of Evidence § 5-801(c), hearsay is a statement made by someone other than the person on the witness stand that is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. Under Rule § 5-802, hearsay is inadmissible and may not be offered as evidence. The hearsay rule is notoriously complicated, and our Maryland personal injury lawyers can help you work around it.
Understanding hearsay is important because the information in police reports is often considered hearsay. When the police write a report about an accident or incident, they often use information from people who witnessed the event. In most cases, the police officers writing the report have no first-hand knowledge of the accident or incident. As such, reports are often considered hearsay. Even so, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule that might allow you to admit parts of the police report into evidence.
A couple of exceptions to the rule against hearsay might allow you to admit the police report, or at least parts of it, into evidence. First, there is the exception for records of regularly conducted business under Rule § 5-803(b)(6). This might include a report or compilation of data made near the time of the reported incident by someone with knowledge of the incident or who obtained information from someone with knowledge. The report must be made and maintained in the course of regular business, and the report should be a normal part of the business practices. Police reports might meet the criteria here and be admitted under this exception to the rule against hearsay.
The report might also be admitted under the exception for public records under Rule § 803(b)(8). This includes records kept by public agencies, like the police. To qualify, the report must describe the purpose or activities of the agency, matters the police have a duty to report, or factual findings from an investigation.
In any case, the court is allowed to deny admission of the report if the report does not appear to be trustworthy or it was assembled with information that the police officer did not get directly from the appropriate sources.
How Police Reports Might Be Useful in Injury Cases in Maryland
Even if the police report about your injuries cannot be admitted into court as evidence, there might be various other ways it can be useful. Our Baltimore personal injury lawyers can help you make good use of the report, so you have a better chance of getting compensation for your injuries.
Finding Other Admissible Evidence
Police reports are often chock full of important information. Reports are often written after an extensive investigation by law enforcement officials. Even if the report is considered inadmissible hearsay, it might point us toward admissible evidence. For example, if we cannot admit the report as evidence, it might contain the names and contact information of witnesses who contributed their knowledge to it. Instead of relying on the police report in court, we can rely on the witnesses we identified through the report.
Impeach a Witness
There might be times during the trial when the police report might be useful, even if it is considered inadmissible hearsay. While witnesses are important sources of information, they are not always reliable. In some cases, witnesses are less than honest about their recollection of the events in your case. If a witness says one thing on the stand but they made an entirely different statement to the police and the police document that statement in their report, we can use the report to impeach the witness.
Impeaching a witness is necessary when a witness is dishonest or unreliable. Confronting them with their conflicting statements shows a jury that this witness’ testimony should not be trusted. This is important when cross-examining witnesses who seek to provide testimony in favor of the defendant.
Refresh a Witness’ Recollection
A police report is also useful as a tool to refresh the recollection of a witness. Witnesses often make many statements to the police, attorneys, and other authority figures before a trial. In many cases, the trial happens many months or even years after the initial injury. It is understandable, then, that the events of your injuries are not fresh in the minds of some witnesses.
While asking witnesses questions about the case, they might forget important details, and we can use the police report to refresh their recollection. This is often done when witnesses forget details they themselves initially provided to law enforcement, and law enforcement records those details in their reports.
Call Our Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys for a Free Evaluation of Your Case
Law enforcement often handles injuries and accidents even if no criminal charges are assessed. Our Columbia personal injury attorneys can help you use the police report about your injuries to your advantage. For a free case review, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.