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Are government crash reports admissible as evidence in personal injury litigation? P.2

Previously, we began looking at the use of government accident reports in personal injury litigation. As we’ve noted, government accident reports can have value for plaintiffs in personal injury or wrongful death litigation, but the issue of admissibility needs to be adequately addressed. Not everything written in government accident reports is necessarily admissible at trial.

In addition to the issue of trustworthiness, there is also the factuality of a report. Last time, we mentioned that only factual findings may be admitted into evidence from government accident reports, but determining the factuality of government findings is not always easy. Factual findings must be distinguished from legal conclusions, which are not admissible at trial.

Another issue is the finality of factual findings contained in a government accident report. Documents and records which are not actually findings of an agency or which are not the product of an agency’s investigation aren’t likely to be final enough to be admitted into evidence. This should be kept in mind before an accident victim seeks to introduce a government report into evidence.

A related issue is reliance on third-party materials in making factual findings. The question is whether the investigating agency conducted its own independent investigation or simply relied on third-party materials. If the agency exercised its own investigative discretion and came to its own conclusions based on outside information, there usually aren’t any problems admitting the findings. The less independent intelligence an agency exercises in a report, the less likely it is to be considered an admissible factual finding.

In any personal injury case, obtaining relevant, reliable evidence is critical for building an effective claim. Working with an experienced attorney helps ensure a defendant is able to navigate any legal issues around the admissibility of evidence. 

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