Washington Court: You Have A Right To See Accident Reports, Even If You Are Planning To Sue The State
Recently a lawyer who was paralyzed in a Washington State bike accident was denied access to recent accidents reports because authorities said that he was planning to use the information to sue the state. However, a Washington State Court of Appeals has confirmed that accident victims researching personal injury cases have the right to access accident reports because of the Public Records Act.
In 2007, Seattle attorney Mickey Gendler was commuting to work over the Montlake Bridge on State Route 13. His bike wheel became lodged in a metal groove and Gendler was thrown over his handlebars. He suffered permanent injuries to his back and spine that left him paralyzed. He believed that the bridge was not properly maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and that many other people had suffered similar cyclist accidents in the past. However, when Gendler attempted to research the history of cyclist accidents on the bridge, Washington State denied him unless he would agree not to use any information he used in a personal injury lawsuit against the state.
Gendler brought his case to court, arguing that the Public Records Act makes all accident records open to Washington State citizens. An appeals court agreed with the decision.
The Washington State Attorney General’s office stressed, however, that this ruling does not mean that the state will not object to future cases in which residents ask for records from the federal database for use in lawsuits against the state.
According to records, the state receives about 700 requests for accident records each year. Last year, six requests were denied because the person requesting the information was planning to use the data in a lawsuit against Washington State.