Are Accident Reports Public Record in Missouri?
If you've been involved in a car crash, the chances are that you gave a statement to a police officer, and would be entitled to a police report later on. Of course, this would be tremendously helpful for your attorney if you were pursuing a personal injury claim.
What about someone who was not involved in the accident but needs access to the details? For instance, you are conducting a study on how many car accidents happen a year in Missouri and their causes so you would like to know about specific details. Items falling under the public record umbrella are just that. They can be accessed by members of the public upon request.
The question here is, do accident reports fall under that banner?
A good idea is to start by understanding what constitutes a public record. Thankfully, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 610.010.6(6) provides all the necessary information.
Based on the statute, a public record speaks to any memorandum, survey, or another document, whether written or electronic, that is prepared for a public body. Exclusions include internal memoranda that may have been prepared for a public body with recommendations, opinions, and advice.
Note, however, that the exemption only applies so long as these memoranda are not presented at any public meeting or retained by the body in question.
Accident Reports in Missouri
In Missouri, an accident report falls under an incident report. Using the statute highlighted above, you will find that any report including a location, time, date, victim names, and any circumstances surrounding the initial report of an incident or crime is open to public access.
There are a couple of caveats with these reports that you may want to bear in mind. For example, reports associated with ongoing investigations are closed. This will apply even if the record’s disposition portion is open.
Additionally, the police can choose to redact any record portion that may be a clear and present danger to an undercover officer, witness, or victim. Additionally, if the portion would reveal a confidential informant's identity or jeopardize an investigation, it may also be redacted. (Find out what happens if there is no police report for a car accident)
How to Request an Accident Report in Missouri
Before moving to make an accident report request, bear in mind that the initial police report tends to not be available until 7 to 10 days have passed since the incident.
When you make your request, the public body, which in this case may be the Highway Patrol department, has no later than three days to respond. Should anything be preventing you from getting immediate access, then a reason for the denial must be provided in writing.
Requests may be made in person, online, and via mail. Note that you may not be charged more than $0.10 per page for copies if the copy is less than a 9 x 14 sheet of paper. You can, however, be charged based on the clerical staff’s hourly rate of pay for any time spent doing record duplications.
Additionally, should research time be required, a charge may apply for that as well. Disc copies can be a part of the request requirements. If so, you're also going to be charged for the cost of the discs.
Bear in mind that the public body can also request an advanced payment if needed.
Remedies in Missouri for Denied Requests
For whatever reason, you may find that your request is denied. In some cases, this may not be done legitimately. For example, perhaps you can prove that a record was supposed to be open when its access was denied. Should this occur, the public body will have to prove that it was within the confines of legal compliance when the denial was done.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Competent Missouri Personal Injury Lawyer Today!
Since accident reports fall under the domain of incidents, if they are not closed in full or in part due to an ongoing investigation, you should have no challenges accessing them.
If you have been involved in an accident that has resulted in a personal injury, an experienced St Louis automobile accident attorney can assist you in getting any compensation you are entitled to. This involves collecting the relevant information such as the accident report associated with the incident.
The attorneys at Powell Law Firm have handled numerous cases in the personal injury domain and have been instrumental in securing fair settlements for numerous clients. Schedule a free consultation today with Powell Law Firm by calling (314) 470-1374.