Bicycle Insurance Claim Tip: Police Reports
Perhaps the biggest misconception regarding bicycle-accident insurance claims/lawsuits is that police reports taken by the officer(s) responding to the incident are determinative. Our clients are almost always surprised to learn that police/traffic accident reports are NOT admissible in California courts.
Section 20013 of the California Vehicle Code states in relevant part that:
“No such accident report shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of an accident…”
This means that in settling your bicycle accident injury claim, the police report is merely a tool to be used in evaluating who would win in the event the claim proceeded to court. However, the report, as an indicator of which party has the better legal position, is only as good as the information that was available to the officer at the time the report was written.
In many bicycle accidents the unfortunate cyclist is injured so severely that he or she is in no condition to give a statement to the officer. While some diligent officers will follow up with the cyclist at the hospital or later when the cyclist is able to give a coherent statement of what happened, many officers do not. Thus, in many cases, the officer writing the report is basing the report solely on the word of the driver, with no input from the cyclist. It is easy to see why so many police reports end up placing the blame on the injured cyclist
Thus, while the fact that police reports are not admissible in court can be frustrating to a cyclist with a favorable police report, in many cases this is actually a blessing.