Are Car Accident Reports Public Record?

Data from the California Office of Traffic Safety indicates car accidents are on the decline in California. However, California still has a relatively high rate of annual motor vehicle accidents. You need to understand the steps you must take if you’re ever involved in one.

For example, you may need to report your accident to the police. This overview will explain when making a police report is necessary.

After filing a report, you might also wonder whether members of the public will be able to view it if they wish. There are many understandable reasons you might not want someone to access your car accident report. This guide will address your concerns.

Filing a Car Accident Report in California: What You Need To Know

California law requires drivers to report motor vehicle accidents they were involved in if an accident:

  • Causes injury
  • Causes death, or
  • Results in property damage of $1,000 or more.

Here’s a more detailed look at what that means.

When Does an Accident Have to Be Reported?

You technically have 10 days to report your accident. However, it’s advisable to report it immediately. You can do so by calling 911. A dispatcher will send an officer to the scene to investigate. Do not let other drivers convince you to “leave the cops out of it.” They may attempt to do so if they were breaking the law or are wanted by the police.

Remain calm as you wait for the officer to arrive. Use this time to check on the other drivers involved in the accident. When doing so, resist the impulse to express any anger, and refrain from saying anything that could be taken as an admission of fault. Calmly make sure other drivers and passengers are okay, and exchange contact and insurance information.

You may also use this time to collect evidence that could improve your chances of recovering compensation if you decide to file a claim or lawsuit against any negligent parties who may have caused your accident. Take pictures of the scene and your injuries from as many angles as possible, and ask for the names and contact information of any witnesses.

While you must avoid making statements that suggest you may have caused your accident, you must also cooperate with the police officer and answer their questions honestly. Once they say you can leave the scene, get medical treatment right away, even if you don’t believe you’ve been injured.

It’s not always immediately apparent to a victim if they’ve sustained injuries in a car accident. You need to see a doctor to ensure you receive prompt treatment for any injuries you may be unaware of. Additionally, if you pursue compensation later, it’s extremely helpful to be able to prove that the injuries for which you’re seeking compensation were directly caused by the accident.

Report your accident to your insurance company after seeing a doctor. Don’t discuss your accident on social media, and strongly consider scheduling a free consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.

Can Someone See My Car Accident Report in California?

Section 16005 of the California Vehicle Code does allow some people to view car accident reports by submitting requests to the DMV. However, they must indicate they have a valid reason for needing to see a report.

Those who may be able to access your car accident report include:

  • Any drivers involved in the accident
  • The parent, employer, or legal guardian of any drivers involved in the accident
  • The authorized representative of anyone involved in the accident
  • Anyone who sustained injuries as a result of the accident
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Courts of qualified jurisdictions

In other words, while it is technically possible for others to see your car accident report, they can’t merely do so by looking for it online or heading to the DMV to retrieve a copy on their own. They need to demonstrate they meet the criteria established in the California Vehicle Code.

While some individuals can access copies of your car accident report, it’s unlikely any random friend, coworker, relative, or peer will have access to the report unless they were somehow involved in the accident.

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