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New Jersey lawmakers push freeze on car accident report release

A bill made it through committee in the New Jersey Senate this week that would make car accident reports unavailable to the public for 90 days after their original filing. The full senate will likely vote on the measure during this session.

Critics said that the bill was too broad, applying to reporters as well as the general public who have a right to information about what is happening in their area. Only the victims, insurance companies, and government agent would have access to the records.

New Jersey lawmakers insist that one of the key problems is attorneys who pursue known accident victims and initiate frivolous claims. This overlooks the fact that attorneys are bound by professional ethnics rules that limit advertising and solicitation abilities to the point that attorneys should not be directly approaching a known accident victim even without this law.

The other side of that issue is that a 90-day waiting period is a long time and without proper representation, New Jersey accident victims may be taken advantage of by insurance companies seeking to undervalue their claim. Since insurance companies will be among the limited few with access to the records, this bill may give them too much leverage over accident victims.

Other critics of the bill say that it limits the public’s ability to access timely information that is important to public safety. There are also concerns that the freeze would prevent public accountability for politicians and other high profile individuals who get into car accidents because of negligent or reckless conduct such as intoxication or driving at high speeds.

Source: New Jersey Star Ledger “Senate committee approves bill creating 90-day freeze on accident report release,” Matt Friedman, June 21, 2012.

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