If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident where someone was injured or killed, you are required to call the police to report the crash. You must also report car accidents that result in property damage of $500 or more. Having an official car accident report can be beneficial if you need to file an insurance or personal injury claim.
When Do Car Accident Reports Become Public Under Florida Law?
According to Florida Statute §316.066, motor vehicle accident reports become a matter of public record 60 days after the car accident. Until that time, only certain people can access the car accident report.
Parties who can access car accident reports before they become public include:
- The parties involved in the motor vehicle accident
- Legal representatives of the parties involved in the crash
- Licensed insurance agents who provide insurance coverage for the vehicles or people involved in the accident
- Insurance companies that accident victims may have applied to for insurance coverage
- Persons under contract with an insurance provider to provide claims information
- Victim services programs
- The Department of Transportation
- Law enforcement officials
- County traffic operations
- The offices of prosecutors
- Television and radio stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission
- Newspapers qualified to publish legal notices
One reason for keeping the car accident report restricted during the first 60 days is to protect the individuals involved in the accident.
If the crash reports were public record, the victims could receive unsolicited calls from car rental agencies, lawyers, doctors, and other individuals who may want to take advantage of a victim’s vulnerable state in the weeks following a car accident.
By keeping the car accident report restricted to certain parties, the state protects the privacy of the accident victims. Victims also have time to obtain medical care and begin taking steps to protect their legal rights.
How Can I Obtain a Copy of a Florida Motor Vehicle Accident Report?
After 60 days, the crash reports become a matter of public record. The FLHSMV is the agency that maintains car accident reports.
You can order a crash report through the online portal. The fee is $10 per report, plus a $2 convenience fee. You can download, print, and save the crash report immediately.
You may also request copies of the reports in person or by mail. If you request a copy of the accident report within 60 days after the accident, you must submit a Sworn Statement to Obtain Crash Report with your request.
Requests for ten or fewer crash reports may be made at the FHP Troop Station nearest to the crash location. You may also request copies of crash reports by mailing your request and payment to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Crash Records, 2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS28, Tallahassee, FL 32399.
Why Do You Need a Copy of Your Car Accident Report?
The crash report contains information related to the motor vehicle collision, such as:
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- The road, weather, and lighting conditions at the time of the crash
- The damages and location of each vehicle involved in the accident
- A diagram of the accident scene
- Violations of traffic laws and citations issued to the drivers
- The names and contact information of the parties involved in the accident
- Statements made by witnesses and other parties
- The police officer’s opinion as to how the collision occurred
Your car accident attorney uses the information in the car accident report as part of their investigation into your car crash. Your lawyer gathers evidence to prove that the other driver was responsible for causing the accident. If you cannot prove the other driver was at fault for the crash, you cannot recover compensation for your injuries.
In some cases, you might be blamed for the car wreck. If so, your compensation could be reduced by your percentage of fault. It is important to consult an attorney immediately if the other party or the insurance company is trying to blame you for contributing to the cause of the crash.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Seek Legal Advice
Your time to file personal injury claims is limited by the Florida statute of limitations. Seeking prompt medical attention for injuries and legal advice regarding your case are two of the best ways to protect your right to fair and just compensation for a car accident claim.
Before you accept a settlement agreement from an insurance provider, make sure that you understand your legal rights. Also, make sure you understand the legal consequences of signing a settlement agreement. You want to ensure you are not being taken advantage of because you do not have legal counsel to advise you.