August 2019 E-Bulletin for Arbitrators

This month's E-Bulletin topics include:

  1. Police Reports: Relevant and Credible Evidence!
  2. Test Your Savvy on Handling Multiple Impact Cases

Police Reports: Relevant and Credible Evidence!

Image of a woman talking to a police officer at the scene of an accidentThis article discusses police reports where the reporting officer is a witness. Decisions noting, “Police report is favorable to Alpha, but officer did not witness the loss,” are common.

Police officers rarely witness accidents. They are, however, trained to investigate, including taking statements from each driver and any witnesses, and analyzing road debris, skid marks, light sequence, and damage to the vehicles.

When a party argues that the police officer “did not witness” the accident, do not simply disregard the report. Review the police report for its accuracy and consistency in regard to the contentions and other evidence submitted by the parties. For example, was the police report “phoned in” and represents only one driver’s version of the accident or was it written at the scene? Does it include statements taken from each driver? Did the officer note his or her observations regarding damage, scene location, debris, witnesses, etc.? Were any contributing factors noted?

The parties are free to refute any of the officer's findings on the report; however, simply arguing that the officer did not witness the accident is not valid.

A statement like, “Police report cited Beta for following too closely; however, review of Alpha and Beta statements and the scene diagram do not support this,” would be more appropriate. Alpha might be disappointed with this comment, but would be more disappointed if its evidence was not considered at all. If the respondent states the applicant’s police report statement is not consistent with the recorded statement provided to the respondent, you would need to clarify how they differ and what conclusion you drew from the inconsistency.
 
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Test Your Savvy on Handling Multiple Impact Cases

Image of a car accidentDoes a case involving damage to a single vehicle caused by two or more tortfeasors bring out your inner worrywart?

We are sharing a sample case scenario so you can explore considerations when rendering a decision on this type of case. Please review the following, and then quiz yourself using the questions and answer key below.

The scenario is a three-car, rear-end collision in which you have determined the arguments and evidence support the following: Car 1 was legally stopped at a red light, the driver of Car 2 was inattentive and struck Car 1. The driver of Car 3, also inattentive, approached and struck Car 2, which was pushed into Car 1 (see illustration below). The Car 1 driver said she felt two strong impacts, which helped you conclude that Beta struck Alpha after Alpha had struck Car 1.
Diagram of a traffic accident

Unfortunately, Car 2 was a total loss valued at $25,000, and the insurer for Car 2 included its damages on a single estimate.

Since the filer has not separated its damages, you have approximated the damages, concluding that the respective damage to the front and the rear of Car 2 is equal. Based on a liability finding that Beta owes 100 percent of Alpha’s rear damages, and 50 percent of Alpha’s front damages, please consider the following questions:  
  1. What would the award be for Alpha’s damages if Alpha’s insured does not have a deductible?  
  2. What would the award be for Alpha’s damages if Alpha’s insured has a $500 deductible? 
  3. Assuming Alpha’s deductible is $500, why would it be inaccurate to apply it toward Alpha’s total loss figure of $25,000?
Answers:
  1. There is no deductible to apply. Beta owes 75 percent of the total loss, or $18,750, because the average of the liability assessments against Beta for Alpha’s total loss is 75 percent (100 percent for rear, 50 percent for front). The remaining 25 percent of responsibility for Alpha’s total loss rests with Alpha ($6,250).
  2. The accurate award is $18,750 against Beta, and Alpha is responsible for $6,250 ($500 deductible paid by Alpha insured + $5,750 paid by Alpha). Alpha’s deductible is absorbed with its front damages, and should be manually removed from the award section.
  3. It would be inaccurate because doing so would result in applying the deductible twice: the deductible is absorbed by Alpha’s insured because 50 percent of the front-end damages are attributed to the Alpha driver’s own breach of duty. A collision deductible does not reduce the amount a liable party owes.
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