Are Car Accident Reports Public Record?

personal injury attorneys

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, one of the first steps is to call the police. The responding officer will then make an accident report at the scene. But do you know what happens with that report? Is it a public record?

Crash Report / Accident Report / Police Report

It may be called something different where you live, but every state has a version of this report. A car accident report is a legal document created by law enforcement that contains a summary of information about the accident. It will often contain information like:

  • Date / Time / Place of the accident.
  • Name, addresses, phone numbers, date of birth, and other personal details of the parties directly involved in the accident.
  • Witness names and contact information.
  • Make and model of cars involved.
  • Driver License numbers & license plate numbers of the parties.
  • Insurance Company Information.
  • Citations.
  • The police officer’s opinions about the cause of the accident and who is at fault.

With all the detail contained in the accident report, many people wonder if this information is available to the public.

Are Car Accident Reports Public Record?

Who can access the report and when varies from state to state. In general, only parties involved in the accident or people with a relationship to the parties involved can access the report. This may include:

  • The drivers
  • The passengers
  • Law enforcement
  • Lawyers
  • Insurance Companies

In some states, the report does become a public record after a certain time period. Check with your local law enforcement agencies to learn more about their accident report and public records policy.

Why Should I Make a Car Accident Report?

If there has been any sort of accident, you’ll want the police to make a report. In some states, it is even a requirement to call the police after an accident. An accident report is designed to be an unbiased third-party account of the accident and may protect you as the aftermath of the accident unfolds. Plus, the police officer wasn’t in the accident and isn’t experiencing the same intense emotions as you, so they are able to better document details you might forget.

Consider the following:

  • Police reports help facilitate insurance claims.
  • The other party may try to make a false claim about the accident later.
  • The other party may try to recant their version of events later.
  • Injuries may not appear for days or weeks. 
  • Damage to your car may not be immediately apparent.

After gathering information, the police officer will submit their report to the department. Obtain a copy of the police report as soon as possible. If you need to make a personal injury claim, the car accident report will often be one of the most important documents on hand.