This seems almost too easy.
It seems so simple.
It's a car accident case.
Here in New York.
The driver who hit you went through a red light at the intersection.
That's simple enough.
There was an eyewitness who confirms those facts.
The police were on scene immediately after the accident.
The officer wrote up a report about the accident.
You then get a copy of the police report days later.
The report says that an eyewitness, standing on the corner, observed the other driver blow through a red light.
You're thinking you have an open and shut case.
You may even be thinking that you have no need to hire an attorney to represent you since you can prove who is responsible just from the police report.
If you did have to hire an attorney, you're thinking that this is a slam dunk issue.
The police report confirms that the other driver was careless and went through a red light.
If you thought those things you'd be wrong.
If you thought those things, you're in for a big surprise.
It's understandable though if you thought those things.
Let me explain why...
The police officer who wrote that report had a duty to report that information.
He was NOT personally at the intersection at the time of the accident.
The cop did not personally witness the accident.
Instead, he spoke to a person on the corner who did witness your accident.
The police officer then recorded what that eyewitness observed.
Since the police officer did not witness that information firsthand, you would be unable to use his report to prove that you were more likely right than wrong that the other driver was careless and violated the motor vehicle laws in New York.
If you were to try and introduce that report into evidence to PROVE that the other driver was careless, the defense would jump up and yell "Objection Judge! That's hearsay!"
The defense lawyer would be correct.
What that means is that you are trying to use a document, prepared by someone who is legally required to make this report, as proof that something happened.
You want to prove, just from the report, that the other driver went through the red light.
But here's the problem.
The cop didn't see the accident.
The eyewitness did.
The cop simply reported on what the eyewitness saw.
If the report were introduced into evidence, the defense attorney would not have the opportunity to test that eyewitness' credibility and memory. That's normally done by cross-examining the witness.