If you have been involved in an accident, the car accident report will be the record that collects all the information from the crash. Even if you don’t intend to become involved in a lawsuit and there are no criminal charges pending, it is important to make sure that the crash report is correct and that the information contained on it is accurate.
You may want to get the help of an attorney or a law enforcement officer to look at it with you if you don’t understand your report. There are multiple pages and sections, and it can be confusing. The bad effect from wrong information may not show up until a year later when your insurance is canceled or something else happens.
Are Accident Reports Public Record?
Law enforcement officers, including prosecutors, are allowed to look at crash reports, and your insurance company will be allowed to have a copy of the accident report so they can evaluate any claims that will be made. Some media members will be allowed access, too, for legitimate news reasons.
In Arizona, you are otherwise not allowed to view an accident report unless you were either involved in the accident or you have a relationship with the person involved in the accident. There are people who would misuse the records, and people who would attempt to use the records to pursue a business or commercial relationship with someone involved in a crash.
In order to protect the privacy of those involved, it is illegal for anyone to order an accident report without a reason. Violators can be prosecuted criminally, as the reports contain sensitive personal information.
Understanding Your Crash Report
Arizona doesn’t require you to report every accident; if no one is injured and property damage is less than $1,000, you may not have a legal requirement to report. However, if you don’t report, you may be leaving yourself open to more serious liability if the other party files a dishonest claim against you.
It’s important to remember that the crash report is written from the investigating officer’s point of view, based on all the evidence collected. When there are criminal charges or civil lawsuits, the crash report will be a key piece of evidence, and the officer may be a key witness.
If you are at the scene when the officer comes to investigate an accident, you will receive an Accident Information Exchange Form. Your form will have the information such as:
- the parties involved, including the names of the drivers
- the makes and models of the vehicles involved in the crash
- how the accident occurred
- possibly the incident number
- the responding officer’s information and
- injuries to yourself and to any passengers listed.
The Accident Information Exchange Form is basically a preliminary crash report, so it’s important to make sure the information is correct. Something as simple as an incorrect year or of the vehicle could cause problems when processing insurance claims.
Sections 10 through 24 have boxes where the officer can give details about the weather, road surface conditions, lighting, and the actual manner of the crash impact. After that, the officer will show where the damage is on the vehicles involved, and there should be a short narrative describing the accident and a crash diagram. More serious accidents, including fatalities, require more extensive investigation and supplemental reports.
How Can You Get a Copy of Your Car Accident Report?
The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the central repository for several kinds of records, including crash reports by Arizona State Troopers. The Department Records Unit (DRU) will have the records for collisions investigated on a state highway or interstate.
The DRU will also allow you to get copies of any photographs taken at the scene by the officer. When you are trying to obtain a crash report from a county or city road, you will need to communicate with the local authorities in the location of the crash.
Troopers are required to turn in their reports within 14 days, but other jurisdictions may have different rules. The completed report may not be the same as the one you got when you were participating in the original exchange of information. You shouldn’t expect to have access to your completed crash report for at least 2 weeks.
Speak With a Lawyer If You Have Any Questions
If you have been in an accident, you have rights. Especially if you suffered any kinds of damages from the accident, you need to protect your rights and any claims you have against other parties.
An attorney can help you obtain your accident report and understand it. If you are the victim, your attorney will help you get just compensation. You may be able to recover for your medical bills, lost wages, rental car expenses, and several other kinds of expenses. If you have any questions or just want someone to assess your claim, don’t hesitate to call today.