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Are Car Accidents Public Records Open To Anyone

Are car accidents public record? The answer varies from one state to the next, but in most states, car accident reports do wind up becoming public records. Many states do this 60 days or two months after the actual date of the crash.

Prior to the time of making them public records, only particular individuals or entities that have a statutorily acceptable reason for getting the report. After it’s a matter of public record, anyone is able to get their hands on a copy.

If you’re in any car crash, particularly one where you sustained injuries, then getting an immediate copy of the crash report can help you figure out whether or not the contained information is accurate or not. Any errors that might be present in that crash report might interrupt your ability to go after compensation.

A big reason why most states don’t let car accident reports become publicly available until a few months after the crash is so they can discourage people from filing fraudulent or frivolous insurance claims. Vehicle accident reports are also kept from the public record in order to protect victim privacy.

There was a time where accident victims got flooded with unsolicited calls and even visits at home from people or entities that might profit off of their accident. You might first think of ‘ambulance chasers’ and other unethical professionals within the legal community, but these harassments included chiropractors, doctors, and car and body repair shops.

Some people and entities can access car accident reports before the time limit is up following an incident. Law enforcement personnel and agencies can look them up any time they need if it relates to performing necessary job functions. Anyone involved in the crash and their attorneys can also get copies of the report, as well as licensed media members or legally authorized programs offering victim services.

Even once the time limit passes and the car accident report is a public record, it’s not easily available to everyone. You typically need the car accident report number in order to get it out of the database. Unlawful attempts to get a report usually means felony charges, as does anyone disclosing privileged personal information.

Even with access to a report, some specific kinds of information are never open to public access. This is largely consistent across every state, since federal law is what mandates this protection. Protected information includes state identification numbers, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, medical information, and disability. Some states go further and also protect emergency contact information too.

​One variant of the ‘ ​are car accidents public record’ question is whether or not car accident settlements are a matter of public record. The typical answer is no, since both parties involved usually agree to the confidentiality of any settlement that they negotiate.

Car accident settlements typically are confidential documents which aren’t available to anyone in the public. The usual and rare exception is when a judge decides to unseal or open a particular confidential settlement. This usually only happens if there is a potential threat to public safety.

​Are car accidents public record? Most of the time, not for a while. Even after they are, quite a bit of identifying information is removed from the public eye in order to protect the personal privacy of the people involved. Also, any information about settlements that are involved are also fully withheld from the public eye except in rare cases where a judge releases them.

Getting access to a car accident report you were involved in helps you establish your case or protect yourself.   The best idea is to contact a top personal injury attorney who focuses his legal practice on car accident cases.


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