In an increasingly digital age, it seems just about anything can be found on the internet. From phone numbers to family members, a simple search can reveal nothing short of a brief background check. But what about the information we provide after an auto accident?
Following a crash, we fill out a car accident report that includes additional private information, including our auto insurance, our home addresses, and more. Can the information included in Florida car accident reports be uncovered on the web as public record?
Is My Auto Accident Report Public Record?
According to Section 316.066, Florida Statutes, car accident reports become public record 60 days after the date of the collision. Prior to that time, the information contained in your report is restricted to certain people or entities with a statutorily acceptable reason.
Yourself, those involved in your claim, and of course the Florida authorities who investigate and report the accident all have unrestricted access to the report immediately upon publication. However, a variety of specific parties outlined in the statute also receive access to this information. Crash reports may be made immediately available to:
- The parties involved in the crash
- Each party's legal representative
- Each party's licensed insurance agent(s)
- Each party's insurers or insurers to which they have applied for coverage
- Persons under contract with insurers to provide claims information
- Prosecutorial authorities
- Law enforcement authorities
- The Department of Transportation
- County traffic operations
- Victim services programs
Other third-party entities that have access to car accident reports prior to it becoming public record include radio and television stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and newspapers qualified to publish legal notices. These are typically news organizations who report traffic conditions and local accidents on a daily basis.
Why Is Accident Report Access Restricted?
Following an auto accident, a victim will take several steps, including receiving medical attention, alerting the insurance company of the crash, and contacting an experienced auto accident attorney. During this strenuous time, the state keeps accident reports private so as to protect the privacy of the victims.
Keeping victim information private protects those involved in the crash from receiving unsolicited calls from individuals or businesses who could profit from an accident. From car rental services and body shops to physicians, chiropractors, and lawyer referral services, certain businesses are in place to profit if they have access to an unlimited pool of accident victims. By keeping victims' names, numbers, and addresses private during the first 60 months after an accident, the state of Florida shields them from these uninvited offers.
What Is The Importance of a Car Accident Report?
Florida law states that a written report of crashes, known as the Florida Traffic Crash Report Long Form, must be completed and submitted to the department within 10 days after an investigation is completed by the law enforcement officer. These reports are completed in any instance in which the accident caused death, personal injury, or any indication of complaints of pain or discomfort by those involved in the crash.
Car accident reports are a summary regarding what occurred in the vehicle collision, which include both the facts related to the accident as well as opinions of the investigating officer. Aside from identifying information for the parties involved, the accident report will include facts that the investigating officer gathered, including:
- Approximate time, date, and location of the accident
- Location of damages to the vehicles involved
- Weather, roadway, and lighting conditions
- Diagram of the accident
The police reports will include other items that the officer gathered during his or her investigation, which will help paint a picture of what occurred during the accident.
- Citation and/or violations of law
- Statements from the parties and witnesses
- Opinions as to the cause of the accident and/or a fault determination
An accurate accident report is critical to receiving compensation following a crash. The facts it contain must corroborate the damages each party is seeking. However, the opinions contained in the report, such as fault determination, can work for or against a party's claim for negligence and liability.
How Do I Access My Report?
To obtain a copy of your accident report within the 60-day window before it becomes public record, you must request it from the local law enforcement office that drafted the report. The steps for obtaining your report are as follows:
- Submit a written request.
- Submit a sworn statement that you will not use the information for commercial solicitation.
- Provide a copy of your identification to prove that you are included in the parties eligible to view the report within the 60-day window.
- Input your report number to the BuyCrash database.
In the state of Florida, the BuyCrash database is used to store and file all Florida crash reports. The platform requires payment for any car crash report you request. If you do not have or do not know your report number, the database can locate your accident report by using the vehicle identification number (VIN), the date of the crash, or the last name of anyone involved in the accident.
In some cases, you can skip the fee of obtaining your accident report by asking the claims representative of your insurance company for a copy of the report. The insurance company may not always have the accident report, or may not be able to release it to you, but if they can it will save you some money.
Can Anyone Access My Information Once It's Public?
Rest assured, the private information contained within an accident report will not be openly displayed once it becomes public record. To locate your accident report once it becomes public record, one would still follow the steps provided in the prior section. However, when requesting information past the 60-day privacy window, an individual would no longer need to provide identification to prove they are eligible for viewing the information.
Once your accident report becomes public record, it is not necessary to prove that you are connected to the accident in any way in order to access the report. But while your information is available to the public, the state of Florida takes certain steps to ascertain you will not receive unsolicited offers from businesses. In fact, a sworn statement that the information will not be used for solicitation is still needed once the information is public record.
If you've recently been involved in an auto accident and have been unable to obtain a copy of your accident report, contact experienced auto accident attorneys today. Ensuring that the information contained in your report is accurate and supports your claim is crucial to securing a settlement. Discover how Weinstein Legal can help.