Auto Accident, biased highway patrol report, anyway to correct this? (California)
March 22, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

hi Mefites, I need some sound insights and advice regarding a recent auto accident I was involved in California. What to do when a highway patrol accident report is biased against you? what can I do to correct the situation?

Here's what happened: I was rear-ended by a big-rig. Big-rig suffered minimal to no damage, my car suffered rear and front end damage. Highway Patrol shows up, say he doesn't believe my statement because big-rig has no visible damage. My car had some prior side rear bumper damage that I didn't had a chance to fix, the other driver flat out lied saying the prior damage was in fact, damage from this time. Highway patrol doesn't believe me when I explained to him about prior damage (I showed him a picture of the prior damage on my phone, but that picture is from the night and the picture is blurry, so the highway patrol guy would not budge). I have asked for and got pictures of the prior damage from my insurance, but the # and quality of the pictures are worse than what I've expected. Some people have advised to call the patrol's superintendent and ask for face-to-face meeting. My insurance said that even in cases where obvious biases exist, highway patrol would seldom amend their reports. I wonder if mefites have any good advice or insight on the matter. Something that I can do on my end other than to wait around for my insurance to take care of things and hope for the best.

Thanks so much!

PS: my insurance doesn't have a local office in CA, which I believe is affecting me adversely in this case.
posted by wcmf to Travel & Transportation around California (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's not clear to me what the current situation is. Are you saying that, because of the previous damage to your car and the lack of damage to the truck, the highway patrol thinks that there was no accident? When you say the other driver said 'the prior damage was damage from this time', wouldn't that make the current accident look worse, not better? What aspect of the accident report is it that you want to change?
posted by impluvium at 7:15 PM on March 22, 2011

Yes, this is almost impossible to parse.Clarity is an issue here for me as well. I have no clue what happened, in which order. It impossible to tell much from how this question has been phrased. To add to the confusion there is this ...

Big-rig suffered minimal to no damage, my car suffered rear and front end damage.

How do you get front-end damage from being rear-ended? Because if you hit a vehicle in front of you, you were following to closely, and that will be found to be your fault.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:52 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think I can try to interpret this here:

-Big rig rear-ended him. Maybe he hit a gaurd rail afterwards or something, but somehow gained some front end damage as well as the rear-end damage

-wcmf claimed to police that Big rig hit him and caused damage to his vehicle

-Big rig driver claimed to police that the damage was pre-existing and not caused by their accident (i.e. the Big rig driver is making it seem either that he wasn't involved in an accident or that he was not involved in as severe of an accident)

-Police believe Big rig driver due to the fact that the Big rig does not show a comparable level of damage

-wcmf's photos of existing damage are not clear enough to show that the pre-existing damage did not include whatever damage was done in this accident

-wcmf wasn't "advice" on the matter

posted by Diplodocus at 8:15 PM on March 22, 2011

wasn't = wants
posted by Diplodocus at 8:17 PM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: sorry for not being clear. I'll try to explain better. Diplodocus got it right. Front end damage occurred because big-rig pushed my vehicle into another big-rig in front of me. I couldn't stop my car even with emergency brake on because the big-rig was simply too big compared to my car and the driver continued to push my car into the other big-rig in front of me after initially hit my car, pushing my car into the other big-rig several times.

Was that more clear?
posted by wcmf at 8:26 PM on March 22, 2011

pushing my car into the other big-rig several times

What? Like, he pushed you into the other big rig in front of you, then backed up and pushed you into the other big rig again? What do you mean by "several times"?
posted by BlooPen at 8:46 PM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: BlooPen: that's what feels like to me as I was sitting in my car furiously braking and trying to stop my car from hitting the big-rig in front of me.
posted by wcmf at 8:50 PM on March 22, 2011

Show up at court on the date listed on the citation, bring the evidence proving you weren't at fault and tell this story to the judge.
posted by brujita at 8:51 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Starting to be less obscure, but still very confusing. This sounds like a low speed accident then? You were parked, with the E brake engaged? And then this guy accidentally popped his clutch, or something? Because getting crushed between 18 wheelers at speed would mean this conversation wouldn't be happening. If this was on the traveled portion of the highway, then you will likely be found responsible for rear-ending the vehicle in front of you, in most cases.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:00 PM on March 22, 2011

I have been in a situation like this before in California. For the people who are having trouble parsing it: in heavily populated parts of California, often the traffic is stopped or very slow. In my case, a big rig was behind me, I was in a small car, we were all going sub-10MPH, I stopped because traffic in front of me stopped. All traffic was less than 1 car length behind the cars in front of them because we were all stopped. The big rig behind me crept forward slowly and pushed my car, and tried to brake (I think) but it felt like my car was being pushed several times while he tried to do so. We pulled over to the side, the driver was very apologetic and his insurance company fixed the damage to my bumper.

OP, I'd look for any photos you can find of the existing damage beforehand, and any photos you can find of the full car prior to this issue showing that the front end was not damaged. Make your statement as clearly as possible, and remove all emotion from it. Present your evidence. Do you have any witnesses?
posted by bedhead at 9:10 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think the very exact details of the accident are that relevant to the question. Wcmf doesn't say who's at fault, but the gist of it is that the Big Rig driver is lying in a way that is apparently detrimental to wcmf...
posted by Diplodocus at 9:10 PM on March 22, 2011

Well ... between the two of you, Diplodocus and bedheadd, the picture is becoming clearer, and my surmise that was a low speed traffic-jam situation seems correct. Based on the information so far, it has been quite a struggle to conceptualize. I guarantee that this communication clarity issue is impacting the outcome here. That said, fault and blame apportionment is always at issue in any accident analysis, and determining the facts is crucial to any valid advice any of us might give.

All traffic was less than 1 car length behind the cars in front of them because we were all stopped.

This is a classic error. Not leaving enough space between your vehicle and the one in front, even when stopped, will almost always result in liability held to be the fault of the following vehicle. As as driver, you need to allow for this always. More-at-risk motorcyclists are told this on Day One of the MSF course, as an example, and are trained to double the "normal" following space when stopping, due to their lighter weight. Motorcyclists are taught to actively watch their mirrors when stopping, and to keep the bike in gear with the clutch engaged to escape the idiots behind you, following too closely precisely to avoid this kind of thing; where a judgment error in proper following-distance can result in death.

It is beginning to sound like wcmf was hit from behind at low speed by the truck driver, he then the hit the truck in front, and the trauck driver who hot him is claiming that he never rear-ended wcmf.

If that is the case, then the front-end damage to wcmf's car, and the rear-end damage to the truck he hit from behind will be found to be his responsibility. What then becomes at issue is the new rear-end damage to wcmf's vehicle. Good records of that previous damage might prove his case, but liability to the following truck-driver will likely be restricted to that.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:04 PM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: Bedhead: your experience sounds exactly like mine, except that the other driver was not apologetic and was lying to the police. I do have a witness, but 1) she's a family member 2) she speaks little to no English 3) she's highly emotional and not observant. All she did was screaming when we first got hit, then she kept saying how we might've died, blahblah. Not helping at all.

Brujita: nobody got ticketed to my knowledge, including myself.

My biggest issue here is that the police report is considered key in determining fault. The obvious biases of the police officer who came to the scene and other driver being a liar means the report will be tilted to his favor. Is there anyone who has experienced an accident with the other party being a liar and a biased police report able to prove his/her case?
posted by wcmf at 12:39 AM on March 23, 2011

nobody got ticketed to my knowledge, including myself.

If you weren't ticketed, then you're not being fined or charged with any traffic offenses, so I'm assuming you're just concerned about the possibility of your insurance company not paying for your damages?

Do you have full coverage or just liability? If liability only, then they wouldn't pay for damage to your own vehicle anyway. If full coverage, then you get into issues of fault, but if no one was ticketed, are you sure the CHP report actually alleges fault?
posted by amyms at 1:34 AM on March 23, 2011

I'd strike the word "bias" in future discussions you have about this. The officer is mistaken in his interpretation of the evidence but you haven't shown any actual bias unless you think he's deliberately misinterpreting because of your race, age, natationality or something ...

Also, I'm not clear why you're not just discussing this with your insurance company. You say they have evidence of the previous damage? They're the ones you have to convince. IF they believe you, they can duke it out with the big rig driver's insurance.
posted by zanni at 2:17 AM on March 23, 2011

How much damage was done to the big rig (trailer?) in front of you? Did they stop and talk to the police as well?

I also think your insurance company is key to this. They'll know about similar accidents and how low speed accidents affect the big rig. That'd lead the police to a bad report, but they need to realize that.

The one data point I can add is I've been behind a Volvo station wagon with a big rig in the lane next to us. They did a little demolition derby in the traffic jam we were in, just getting more and more agitated with each other, darting closer and closer till the inevitable happened and they collided. The big rig wasn't scratched, the Volvo's fender was destroyed. The big rigs just seem built tougher than our cars, even the cosmetics.
posted by jwells at 5:24 AM on March 23, 2011

If you had a prior accident, and your insurance company has evidence of that (reports, pics, emails, ...), but there is nothing stating that you got the damage fixed (invoice from a body shop), then the court should listen to some reason. However, be open to them not amending the report, because it basically is showing that the cop was not doing his job the first time around.

I hope you also take the lesson here of buying insurance cheap (I'm assuming as much if there's no office in your state) is not worth it when it comes to when you need them most.

I completely feel for you, cops don't seem to like me, and it really grates on my nerves when they've called me a liar straight to my face.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:51 AM on March 23, 2011

A police officer is not a determiner of fault. The police report should only include facts (what the police officer saw like positioning of cars and what the parties told him). Any other information on a police report, like police officer conclusions, should not be included. If they are, you should ask for an amended police report by going to the police station and calmly asking for one. They likely won't make it easy, and you should be prepared to spend some time waiting. But, if the report has statements by the officer that he could have had no knowledge of (like fault if he didn't witness the accident), it should be amended.
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:05 AM on March 23, 2011

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