By: Christopher B. Cloude
If you have had the unfortunate experience of being involved in a motor vehicle crash, you may already be aware of how important it is to obtain information at the scene.
Frequently, though, potential new clients with personal injury claims have not gathered enough information at the accident scene to allow us to pursue their case without expensive investigation. Sometimes even after investigation we are unable to obtain the necessary information to support their case. Here is a common situation we are presented with:
A person was driving through an intersection with a green light and was struck by another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle gets out and says “I am so sorry, I didn’t see the red light until it was too late”. The person feels bad for the other driver, and because they admitted fault does not see the need to secure names and contact information from witnesses. A few days later, the other party’s insurance company contacts the person with the green Iight, and tells them the insurance company is denying the claim because the other person now says they had the green light and you went through the red light.
This is what personal injury law laywers informally refer to as the classic “red light – green light case”. Often it’s just one person’s word against the other. Even if a police officer charges the other driver, the police report is not admissible in civil court because it is considered hearsay evidence. Since the police officer was not an eyewitness to the accident, his or her understanding of how the accident happened is not admissible. (However, if the at-fault driver admits to the police officer that the accident was their fault, that is admissible). Without witnesses to verify your claim, after a denial by the other person’s insurance company , there may be nothing you can do to successfully obtain a recovery for your vehicle damage or personal injury in court if you don’t have proof of who was at fault.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle crash, please take a few minutes to secure the names and contact information of anyone that may have witnessed the crash. If you realize your injuries are more significant than you first thought at the accident scene, this information may prove invaluable if the other party’s insurance company denies your claim. Obtaining information at the scene may also make obtaining a recovery for your losses faster and less expensive.
About the Author: Chris Cloude is a claims consultant with the Fredericksburg injury attorneys of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. Working with Fredericksburg car accident lawyer Edward Allen, Chris maintains a strong record of successfully assisting clients with their car accident injury claims.
 “Hearsay” refers to statements made out of court that generally are not admissible. In addition to being excluded under the general Hearsay Rule, in Virginia there is also a statute that says a Police Crash Report (From FR300) is not admissible in court; see Va. Code §46.2-379 “Use of accident reports made by investigating officers”, at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-379. [Editor’s Note].
 Statements that are “admissions against interest” by a party generally are admissible as one of the thirteen exceptions to the Hearsay Rule. Unfortunately, if the police officer is not contacted promptly after an accident and this statement is confirmed, then the police officer may discard their notes. Statements by parties are generally not included in the official report that is filed with the DMV, and given the number of motor vehicle crashes that police officers investigate, the officer is not likely to remember what was said for very long after a crash. That’s one reason it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney promptly after a crash. [Editor’s Note].
 Our Firm has a card that lists the information you should obtain at the scene, which you can place in the glovebox of your car. You can stop by any of our seven offices and pick up one of these cards for free.