Every state deals with car accidents a little bit differently. For instance, in some states, no-fault accidents exist. In others, there are minimum insurance policy amounts that you need if you’re going to drive legally.
In this article, we’ll look at car accidents in the state of Florida. We’ll talk about a question that could become important if you live in Florida or get in an accident there. The question is whether or not car accident reports in Florida are public record.
What Exactly Does Public Record Mean?
Before we get into whether car accident reports are public record in Florida, we should first explain just what the term “public record” means. The term means that members of the public can access the documents in question with no issues.
To put it in context, most papers pertaining to lawsuits are public record. Someone can walk into an administrative building and request them, and they can get them and peruse them at their leisure. They might even be able to copy those papers and take them home with them.
So, Are Car Accident Reports Public Record in Florida?
The short answer is that car accident reports are public record in Florida. Once you file those reports after an accident, the public can access them if they ever decide they want to look at them.
You might wonder why the public would want to look at your car accident report. That’s a good question, and there are many different possible answers.
Maybe you’re in a car accident in Florida with your mistress. Your wife suspects that you are cheating on her, so she hires a private investigator. The investigator can use the car accident report to ascertain whether anyone was in the car with you when the crash occurred.
Perhaps you plan to run for public office, or you already hold a high-ranking government position in the state. You consume some alcohol and then get behind the wheel.
If you crash your car and get a DUI, you may want to conceal that from the public. A reporter might decide to look at the car accident report, though, and write a story based on that. That story could lead to your political downfall if it comes out during an election year.
When Do You Have to File a Car Accident Report in Florida?
As we explore this topic further, you should know that you do not always have to file a car accident report in the state of Florida if you’re in a vehicular collision. For instance, maybe you ding another car in a parking lot, but you don’t cause very much damage.
You have to report an accident in Florida if you caused a traffic fatality, if you caused $500 or more in damages, or if you caused a personal injury. In the parking lot scenario where you tapped another vehicle, none of those things might happen. If that’s true, you can legally get away with not filing an accident report.
How Do You File a Car Accident Report?
If you do get in an accident, and you know you hurt someone or caused more than $500 in damages, the fastest way to get the ball rolling is to call 911 on your smartphone. The cops will come and take down all your information, and there will be a police report stemming from the incident.
In the first 60 days after a crash, certain parties can see that report, while others can’t. Who can and can’t see it will depend on various accident-related details. Some lawyers can hold back accident reports for a while, but sooner or later, that report will become public record, and any interested parties can read it.
Who Can Get an Accident Report Within that First 60 Days?
During the first 60 days after an accident, not just anyone can obtain a report. For instance, a private investigator or reporter might not be able to do so.
However, many other individuals can. Either driver involved in the crash, if there were more than one, can look at that report during that 60-day period. Law enforcement officers can look at it, and so can lawyers who the drivers hired to represent them.
Car insurance companies can look at that report, and they will unquestionably want to do so. The Department of Transportation can look at it, and they might do so because they want to determine whether or not to suspend your license based on whether you acted recklessly and caused the accident. If the report reveals you were over the legal alcohol limit, that might lead to a license suspension.
Why Is There That 60-Day Grace Period?
The reason why Florida thinks it’s best to have that 60-day grace period is so the accident victims can seek medical treatment and legal advice about the crash before the public can see the report and weigh in on it. The public might decide to take advantage of the accident victim in various ways, and the 60 days prevents that from happening, at least for a while.
Once that 60-day period is up, you can obtain a car accident report, even if you had nothing to do with the crash, you’re not a claims investigator, and you’re not a law enforcement officer. You can simply request a copy online, and you then have to pay a $10 fee, plus another $2 convenience fee.
These reports are usually quite thorough and reveal much about what happened at the crash site that day. In legal cases, such as when wrongful death occurs, or someone injures someone else very badly in a car wreck, these reports can come into play. They might win or lose a case for either driver, a pedestrian, a cyclist, or anyone else who the crash affected.
Florida’s way of dealing with these car accident reports is fairly typical, and the system they have set up seems to work well.