Police switch gears in assigning blame for fatal car accident

Posted on in Car Accidents

As we've previously discussed in this blog, a criminal case that stems from a traffic accident very often affects the outcome of a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Even if criminal charges aren't filed, when police assign blame to a driver in a car accident and that driver is found guilty, the accident's victims or their families may have a better shot at winning an award in a civil case.

So what happens when police turn out to be wrong? We may find out soon whether anything will come of a revised conclusion by police regarding a fatal accident on Highway 1 this past spring. The head-on collision killed a 20-year-old San Jose woman and critically injured the other driver, a 44-year-old woman from San Gregorio.

California Highway Patrol troopers who investigated the crash at first believed that the critically injured driver caused the collision when her northbound vehicle veered into oncoming southbound traffic. But the woman's father disputed the facts of the report. He insisted his daughter was actually heading south, and to prove it he gave investigators an ATM receipt from a bank where she'd stopped on her way home. The evidence suggested that she was traveling south, and witness reports supported his theory.

After continuing to investigate the collision, CHP authorities agreed with the driver's father. They amended their own accounts of the crash to say that it was more likely that the other driver veered into oncoming traffic.

Although it's not clear whether the deceased victim's family made any attempts to file a civil lawsuit after the crash, the revised accident report could effectively put an end to such a case. Whether civil lawsuit defendants believe them or not, police reports often play a significant role in the success of a personal injury or wrongful death case. Just as the father in this case did, those who question the accuracy of an accident report must offer enough contradictory evidence for police to reopen their investigation.

Source: Half Moon Bay Review, "CHP switches blame on fatal Highway 1 crash," Mark Noack, July 18, 2012

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