Are Car Accident Reports Public Record in San Diego, CA?

No, car accident reports are not generally a matter of public record in California. According to California Vehicle Code §20012, all accident reports are for the confidential use of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of the California Highway Patrol.

However, interested parties may obtain copies of the accident report; interested parties include:

  • A driver involved in the accident or the conservator or guardian of a driver
  • A minor driver’s parent
  • The authorized representative of a driver
  • Individuals injured because of the car accident
  • The owner of a vehicle involved in the accident
  • The owner of the property damaged because of the collision
  • Individuals who might incur civil liability because of the accident
  • Attorneys representing any of the above parties

If you hire a San Diego car accident lawyer to handle your injury claim, you do not need to worry about obtaining a copy of your car accident report. Instead, your lawyer will request and provide you with a copy of the report.

How Do I Get a Copy of My California Car Accident Report?

It depends on which law enforcement agency investigated your car crash. For example, if the California Highway Patrol investigated the accident, you could print the Collision Request Form online. Then, you can mail the form or take the form to the nearest CHP Area Office. 

If the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office investigated your car accident, you have several ways to request a copy of the car accident report. You can generate a request online through the Public Records Center. You may also visit the Sheriff’s office in person or submit the request form by mail.

The City of San Diego allows you to obtain a copy of your traffic collision report online through LexisNexis eCrash. You may also visit the SDPD Records Division in person or mail your request to the Records Division. 

What Steps Should You Take After a Car Accident in California?

The things you do following a car wreck can have a significant impact on your injury claim. 

Below are some general steps that apply in most car accident cases:

  • Call 911 to report the accident and request emergency medical services
  • Do not admit fault or discuss the accident with other people at the accident scene
  • Take pictures and make a video of the crash scene, if it is safe for you to do so
  • Ask anyone who witnessed the accident to give you their name and contact information 
  • Seek immediate medical care for injuries (NOTE: Think carefully before denying medical treatment. If you say you were not injured, that could hurt a future claim. It is best to state you intend to see your physician instead of saying you are “okay” or not injured.)
  • Report the car accident to your insurance company
  • Continue medical care with your doctor
  • Do not sign any documents or provide statements for an insurance company without legal counsel

As soon as your injuries allow, it is wise to talk with a personal injury lawyer about your accident. First, you need to understand your legal rights. Then, you need to understand the process for filing injury claims for damages caused by the accident. A lawyer can help you with both of these matters.

Damages include compensation for your financial losses, including the cost of medical treatment and personal care. Economic damages also include compensation for your loss of income.

You are also entitled to be compensated for the pain and suffering you experienced because of the car wreck, including non-economic damages

Be Careful of Quick Settlement Offers

The insurance adjuster may present you with a quick settlement offer for your injury claim. However, if your doctor has not released you and given you a final report, do not accept the settlement offer. Settling your claim before you finish your medical treatment means you are responsible for all future medical bills and costs.

If you do not understand the damages you can recover for a car accident claim or the value of those damages, consider seeking legal counsel. The claims adjuster works for the insurance company. Their job is to limit the company’s liability for your claim. Therefore, the adjuster will not tell you that you are accepting a low-ball settlement offer. 

Make sure you receive the compensation you deserve for a car accident claim by talking to a personal injury lawyer before you sign any documents or agree to any settlement offers.