Accident reports are open despite what some law enforcement agencies might try to say

A question came in last week about the availability of accident reports. The reporter had been told, apparently by a law enforcement agency, that it no longer had to make accident reports available to the media.

Nothing could be further from the truth and the language in the law specifically points that out.

KRS 189.635 addresses accident reports and to some the reports are not available. But you will note in section (8) of the law, “The report shall be made available to a news-gathering organization….” That’s pretty plain and simple. It further specifies newspapers in (8)(b) 1, 2, 3.

Keep this handy and the next time you seek an accident report, if you’re told the law enforcement agency doesn’t have to give it to you, see if they can read the law with you there and then make them understand.

Effective: June 29, 2017

KRS § 189.635

189.635 Vehicle accident reports by operators, law enforcement officers, and agencies; availability to parties to accident and news-gathering organizations; contracts with outside entities to provide vehicle’s accident history and electronic access to reports; administrative regulations; availability of reports; insurers of train engineers

  • – – – – – – – – –

(8) (a) The report shall be made available to a news-gathering organization, solely for the purpose of publishing or broadcasting the news. The news-gathering organization shall not use or distribute the report, or knowingly allow its use or distribution, for a commercial purpose other than the news-gathering organization’s publication or broadcasting of the information in the report.

(b) A newspaper or periodical shall be considered a news-gathering organization if it:

1. Is published at least fifty (50) of fifty-two (52) weeks during a calendar year;

2. Contains at least twenty-five percent (25%) news content in each issue or no more than seventy-five percent (75%) advertising content in any issue in the calendar year; and

3. Contains news of general interest to its readers that can include news stories, editorials, sports, weddings, births, and death notices.

(c) A newspaper, periodical, or radio or television station shall not be held to have used or knowingly allowed the use of the report for a commercial purpose merely because of its publication or broadcast.

(d) For the purposes of this section, the meaning of “news-gathering organization” does not include any product or publication:

1. Which is intended primarily for members of a particular profession or occupational group; or

2. With the primary purpose of distributing advertising or of publishing names and other personal identifying information concerning parties to motor vehicle accidents which may be used to solicit for services covered under Subtitle 39 of KRS Chapter 304.

(e) A request under this section shall be completed using a form promulgated by the department through administrative regulations in accordance with KRS Chapter 13A. The form under this paragraph shall include:

1. The name and address of the requestor and the news-gathering organization the requestor represents;

2. A statement that the requestor is a news-gathering organization under this subsection;

3. A statement that the request is in compliance with the criteria contained in this section; and

4. A declaration of the requestor as to the accuracy and truthfulness of the information provided in the request.

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