How Do You Get a Copy of a Virginia Crash Report?

Crash report

Drivers involved in car wrecks often want or need to get a copy of the accident report. In Virginia, the official name for this document is a “police crash report.”

The police crash report outlines all the basic information about a crash, the vehicles involved, the drivers and passengers, and causes and contributing factors to the accident. It also includes the investigating officer’s diagram of the crash scene and information about the location of impact on each vehicle. There are special pages that are completed when a commercial motor vehicle or pedestrian is involved. In addition, and often obtained only by special request, may be witness statements, a ‘DUI checksheet, or other documents identifying witnesses and scene diagrams.

The easiest way to get a crash report in the Commonwealth, prepared by the State Police Department, is to request it from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV is the official custodian of records that reflect crashes that must be reported under state law. The DMV keeps the records for at least three years after the date of the accident. Depending upon the City involved, you may be able to obtain one simply by walking into the Central Records department of the Police Department.

Only certain people are legally allowed to obtain a copy of the crash report. Of course, the driver, someone who was injured in the crash, or someone who owned property involved in the crash can get a copy. In addition, any of these people can give authorization for someone else to obtain a copy of the report on their behalf.

If a minor is hurt or killed as a result of the crash, his or her parent or guardian may obtain a copy of the report from the DMV. Similarly, if an adult is injured or killed in the crash, that person’s next of kin or personal representative may obtain a copy of the report.

Aside from these people, others who were not involved in the crash may obtain information from the police crash report only if they are legally allowed to obtain it. The DMV’s website provides details about how to request a report from that agency.

A few Virginia law enforcement agencies make their crash reports available through an online vendor known as Buycrash.com. As of the writing of this article, the following agencies make their reports available through Buycrash:

  • Colonial Heights Police Department;
  • Roanoke City and County Police Departments;
  • Staunton Police Department;
  • Vincent Police Department; and
  • Warsaw Police Department.

To use this tool, you must have certain information about the crash. You must also confirm that you are authorized to receive a copy of the report.

At The Sandler Law Group, we deal every day with vehicle accidents and crash reports in Virginia. If you have questions, ASK ABOUT IT! Call toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

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What Is a Reservation of Rights Letter?

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Contracts for auto insurance place certain obligations on both the insurance company and the insured driver. For example, the insurance company is generally required to defend an insured driver in court if that driver is sued due to a “covered” motor vehicle accident. Depending on the details of the crash, however, an insurance company may ultimately decide that the insured driver’s actions are not covered under the policy.

Just after an accident occurs, facts can be fuzzy. It can take the police some time to determine what they think happened. Often, even a driver involved in an accident may not be aware of all the facts that caused or contributed to the accident and to his or her injuries.

Similarly, when a claim is first submitted to a driver’s insurance company, the company does not know very much about what happened. To clear things up, it will assign an investigator to obtain relevant evidence — such as the police report, witness statements, medical records, and photographs — and then determine how to handle the case.

It is important to remember that the insurance company is not interested in anything other than finding a way NOT TO PAY. If they can back out of their obligation under the policy to cover a loss, then they will, because it saves them money, even if it hangs you out to dry. By denying the circumstances of coverage, or by claiming that you misrepresented some face when you applied for the policy, they can try to weasel out of their obligation to cover you if you are the person at fault, or avoid paying you if you are the claimant.

Your insurance company only has to meet certain obligations in its contract with you — such as defending you in a lawsuit — if the accident is “covered” by your policy. Insurance companies sometimes cannot immediately tell whether an accident is covered. When that happens, the insurance company sends its insured driver a “reservation of rights” letter. This means that although the insurance company is going to investigate the accident — or possibly even provide a legal defense in a lawsuit — it may later decide that the accident is not “covered” under your policy and stop defending you at that time. A reservation of rights letter, however IS NOT a denial letter. Rather it is a letter that says that, for the time being, they are going to continue to investigate and defend the claim for your, pending the outcome.

Because a reservation of rights letter puts the insured driver on notice that the company may LATER deny coverage, it is usually a good idea to see an experienced injury lawyer if you receive one of these letters.

At the Sandler Law Group, we believe in preventing or avoiding accidents whenever possible. Unfortunately, even when precautions are taken, accidents occur. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, ASK ABOUT IT! Call the Sandler Law Group—toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900—to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act Keeps Your Private Information Safe

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Did you ever wonder what protections exist for all the private information you are required to provide to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles? Federal and state laws work together to help protect your confidential information.

In 1994, Congress passed a law called the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which was originally designed to guard against crime. Congressional members were concerned with the illegal use of personally identifiable information for purposes such as fraud and identity theft. Yet another driving force behind this federal law was that private information had been used — although rarely — by stalkers to locate their victims.

As you might expect, there are several exceptions to the general prohibition on non-use under this federal law. For example, your personal information may be obtained by law enforcement to use in crime investigations. Here are some other examples:

  • government recalls and emissions issues;
  • insurance company accident investigations; and
  • lawyer investigations in personal injury lawsuits.

What is protected by the DPPA? Your name, street address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, telephone number, photograph, and medical or disability information. Information about your traffic violations, accident history, and license status are not protected under this law.

However, Virginia law provides even more protection for your private information than the federal DPPA. Your driver records are privileged under a Virginia law passed by the General Assembly in 1994. Although there are exceptions, many of them either require you to have applied for a certain type of job or position or for you to have given consent for the release of your information. For example, if you apply to work for a volunteer fire company or to volunteer for the American Red Cross as a vehicle operator, a shortened version of your information can legally be provided. You can review all of those exceptions here.

Under Virginia law, your information cannot be released to companies who want to use it to market products or services to you.

If you’re in an accident due to the negligence of another driver, call Sandler Law Group. You can also ASK ABOUT IT! Call toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

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