Georgia has an Open Records Act (ORA) that addresses which documents are public record. Several government agencies in Georgia created “A Law Enforcement Officer’s Guide to Open Records Act in Georgia,” that explains ORA as it relates to car accidents and many other situations. According to the guide, Georgia’s Open Records Act gives the public access to information and protects privacy.
The Government Can Withhold Information About Car Accidents
There is a general presumption that all public records are subject to inspection and copying, law enforcement has two exemptions, which include:
- Withholding investigative records when there is a pending investigation or prosecution, (other than the initial incident or arrest report). For example, if the police are investigating a hit and run accident or prosecuting someone for driving while intoxicated, they can withhold some investigative records.
- Withholding records that would reveal confidential material, such as the identity of a confidential source, an ongoing confidential surveillance or investigation, or material from an investigation or prosecution that would endanger someone’s life or safety.
Those two exemptions are discretionary, meaning that it is up to the government official to decide whether you can get a copy of those records.
Getting a Copy of an Accident Report in Georgia
You can only get a copy of an accident report in Georgia if:
- You submit a written request that provides a “statement of need.”
- You are a person or entity that is entitled to the report under Georgia law.
These are some examples of people who may have a right to car accident reports in Georgia (although officials can redact some personal information from the reports):
- Persons actually or allegedly injured by the crash
- An insurer of a person involved in the accident or property damaged in it
- Someone who owns or leases property damaged in the wreck
- Someone with a personal, professional, or business connection with a party to the accident
- Prosecutors and public law enforcement officers
- Someone alleged to have liability because of the crash
- A lawyer who needs the records for a criminal case or a possible claim of an unsafe intersection, roadway, or railroad crossing
- A representative of a news media organization who wants to use the report for an allowed purpose
- Someone researching subjects related to motor vehicle accidents and in the public interest (officials will redact all identifying information)
- A member of a government agency acting within the scope of official duties
Getting a Copy of Other Documents Related to Car Accidents in Georgia
Depending on the type of document, who you are relative to the person who is the subject of the report, and the reason you want the document, you may have access to some documents and not others. Here are a few examples:
- You cannot get a copy of the driving history or personal information on individual drivers from the Georgia Department of Driver Services unless a law enforcement agency has incorporated the driving history into a closed investigatory case file.
- Subject to disclosure requirements, you may get access to police in-car camera or body camera recordings in closed cases. The law is unclear regarding open cases.
- You can get access to crime lab reports (GBI Division of Forensic Services) in closed cases.
You do not need to investigate your car accident on your own. If you suffered injuries in a wreck that was someone else’s fault, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC can gather the evidence to evaluate and prove your case. Call us today at 404-474-0804, for a free, no-obligation consultation.