Is an Accident Report Admissible in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

The short answer is no. First, the report contains multiple instances of hearsay, which are statements, other than ones made by the witness while testifying at trial, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. TENN. R. EVID. 801(c). Hearsay is not admissible in evidence unless it fits within one of the recognized exceptions contained in TENN. R. EVID. 803. The subsection of Rule 803 that covers public records and reports contains fairly broad language for the admissibility of records, reports, and data compilations in any form from a public office or agency that is under a legal duty to report what the office or agency observed. However, there is an express exclusion for matters observed by police officers or other law enforcement personnel, which prevents the party seeking the accident report’s admission into evidence from doing an end run around the hearsay rule. For good measure, the Tennessee legislature passed TENN. CODE ANN. § 55-10-114(b), which provides that accident reports cannot be used as evidence at any trial, civil or criminal, arising out of an accident. While a party may use the accident report at trial to refresh a witness’ recollection about a particular date or location, the report itself must remain excluded from evidence.