Police Hiding Traffic Safety-Related Information
Having access to public information, such as police reports for car accidents, is often a crucial step in moving a personal injury case forward. Unbeknownst to many, however, various Wisconsin municipalities continue to redact (or “black out”) pertinent information from reports before the reports are released. This poses a significant challenge to injured people looking to pinpoint witnesses and other pieces of evidence that may or may not assist in their personal injury cases. Wisconsin reporters first noticed the problem while looking to investigate police conduct in the interest of public safety.
The Driver's Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), a federal law that prohibits the release and use of certain personal information by the state, was passed in 1994 when opponents of abortion began tracking down and harassing abortion patients after finding their home addresses in public driver's license databases. Still, there has been confusion in the courts as to whether the Act affects the release of information found in police reports.
Law Enforcement Takes Action
Various Wisconsin police departments began redacting crucial personal information from their police reports in response to the lack of clarity related to enforcement and applicability of the DPPA and on the advice of their insurance providers. More than 80 municipalities in the state have been redacting information from police reports.
However, in June of 2014, an agreement was reached with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association to make the information publicly available as long as it was in the interest of public safety. Regardless, not every police department is following this agreement.
In many cases, especially those involving police pursuits that lead to an accident, critical information is edited from reports, such as the contact information for eyewitnesses. These actions can have serious ramifications on plaintiffs' abilities to seek recovery when they are harmed in an accident or other traffic-related injury.
Contact an Experienced Wisconsin Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, reach out to our experienced Green Bay car accident attorneys or Appleton car accident attorneys at Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. today. We will review your case and do our utmost to help ensure that you receive adequate compensation for your injuries. Our offices are conveniently located in Appleton, Green Bay, New London and Oshkosh.