If you’ve been in a car crash, you might be left with a lot of questions. Does the accident have to be reported? Will my insurance want a copy of my accident report? Where do I start?
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The Law Requires You to Report the Accident
First of all, if you were involved in a car crash, Florida law requires you to report the accident within 10 days. You’re required to report the accident if anyone was injured or if there is $500 worth of property damage. The information recorded in a police accident report includes:
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- Road conditions, including visibility and weather
- A diagram of the accident
- Names and contact information of drivers
- Notes on injuries or damage
- Responding officer’s name and badge number
Initially, only authorized parties can access this information. This report is restricted for 60 days after the accident. After that time, the car accident reports become public record.
Why is Car Accident Reports Restricted for 60 Days?
Florida restricts public access to car accident reports for 60 days to protect you from solicitation. Before this restriction, car accident victims were flooded with unwanted phone calls and house calls from physicians, chiropractors, auto body shops, and other people trying to make money from their misfortune. Florida keeps vehicle accident reports private to protect your privacy.
Who can View Non-Public Record Car Accident Reports?
While Florida has a 60-day restriction period before car accident reports are available to the public, there are some exceptions. Parties who may view this non-public information include:
- People involved in the traffic accident
- Their legal representatives
- Their insurance agencies
- Insurance underwriters
- Law enforcement
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How do I Find my Car Accident Report?
If you were in a collision in Florida and want to get a copy of your accident report, you have to wait until 10 days after the accident. After that, you have three options to request your report.
You can use Florida’s Crash Portal to fill out your request. There’s a $10 fee plus a convenience fee. Your report will be available to download immediately. You will receive an email with a download link that must be used within 48 hours. This is the easiest method.
You can request a copy of your accident report by mail. Your request may take 4-6 weeks to process. Locate the FHP Trooper Station nearest to the site of the accident. A letter requesting your report must be accompanied by payment.
You can pay by check or money order addressed to “FLHSMV.” Your mail-in request can be sent to the following address:
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 28
Tallahassee, FL 32399
The responding police officer at the accident may have given you a receipt with an identification number for the police report. There may be instructions to call the traffic division of the law enforcement agency that filed your report. The administration fee for this method is typically about $15. If you don’t have an identification number, you can visit the FHP Trooper Station and describe the accident by date, time, and location.
Whichever method you use, you will be asked to complete a sworn statement to verify your eligibility to obtain the accident report during the initial 60-day window.
Can a Non-Authorized Person See a Car Accident Report?
Even though a car accident report becomes a public record after 60 days, there are heavy penalties for any non-authorized individual who obtains it. There are criminal penalties for the unlawful disclosure of confidential personal information. Even trying to obtain this information has the same weight, third-degree felony charges. In Florida, that could mean a $5,000 fine or up to five years in prison.
Is Any of My Personal Information Protected?
Even though traffic accident reports are a matter of public record, you can rest assured that your sensitive information will be protected under federal and state law. The report will not include your social security number, driver’s license number, or state identification number. Your medical information, such as disabilities, will also be kept private.
Information in your report that may be shared with the public include:
- Details about the accident
- Driver’s license status
- Tickets and moving violations
Will a Car Accident Report Help or Hurt my Auto Injury Case?
Whether you’re pursuing a lawsuit or an insurance claim, you need to build the strongest case possible. Your full car accident report can help you do that. The most important thing is to make sure your report doesn’t have any errors on it. Your claim could be denied if the accident report indicates you were partially at fault.
However, a detailed, accurate report will support your claim for financial compensation. Your personal injury attorney can review your report for errors and work to correct them as needed.
Do not delay in Pursuing Justice for a Car Accident that was Not Your Fault
If you choose to hold the at-fault party or parties financially accountable for your car accident and subsequent injuries, keep in mind you have a limited time to file an injury claim or lawsuit.
According to Florida Statutes §95.11(3)(a), you have four years from the date of the accident to file your personal injury case in civil court.
For a wrongful death case, you only have two years from the date of the decedent’s passing to file a lawsuit, according to Florida Statutes §95.11(4)(d).
Keep in mind, evidence can disappear over time, such as surveillance video, which can be erased. Eyewitnesses to the accident may forget important details that support your case. That’s why taking action as soon as you can is critical to building a strong case and seeking the compensation you need and deserve.
Speak with a Lawyer About Your Case
If you need help obtaining your car accident report or don’t understand how to use the information on it, the lawyers at Anidjar & Levine are here to help. Our team of car accident attorneys has experience handling insurance claims and lawsuits with great success. We can review your case for free when you call us at (954) 525-0050 for your free consultation.