Getting Complete Police Car Wreck Reports not so Easy in Wisconsin

Getting a police report for a car wreck in Wisconsin may not be as easy as it sounds. While the Wisconsin Department of Transportation instructs the public to obtain a police report for any car accident that occurs in the state ($6 fee), those who are in need of one may find that they will not always be given a complete one.

Approximately 135,000 car accidents occur in Wisconsin annually, or one every 5 minutes, and upwards of 700 people are killed and about 50,000 people are injured and the cost for the state is about $2.9 billion. For each one of these accidents, a police report is filed and is supposedly available for those who have a legitimate right to it, such as the parties directly involved in an accident.

However, there has been an increasing tendency for law enforcement agencies to redact or block out information stated in police reports, including those for car accidents. A federal law protecting the right to privacy of drivers whose information may be obtained from motor vehicle registers is the basis for this policy, but it is doubtful whether the 1994 Driver’s Privacy Protection Act was meant to apply to individuals who have a right to a full car accident report for insurance and civil litigation purposes.

This redaction policy is a reaction to a lawsuit against a city in Illinois that originated from a parking ticket stuck to the windshield which contained full details regarding the owner of the vehicle, including name, address and birth date. The plaintiff claimed that this violated the DPPA law, and the case is now pending at the US Supreme Court. By withholding vital information, the law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin are hoping to avoid similar lawsuits. Ironically, a city in Wisconsin is now being sued for violating the open records law with their redaction policy.

If you are injured in a car wreck due to the negligence of others, you may find your work cut out for you in obtaining a police report you can use in a personal injury lawsuit. Retain the services of a Wisconsin car accident attorney who will have the knowledge and resources to obtain the records you need for your claim.