CHARLOTTE — Police officers take drivers’ personal information and fill out accident reports after a wreck.
Lawyers and body shops use those reports to try to find clients and customers.
Years ago, Congress passed the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which states agencies can’t give out accident reports for marketing reasons.
Drivers are now suing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department claiming it should make sure anyone who asks for an accident report isn’t using it for a profit at a business.
“If you’re in a wreck, your personal information is given onto the record there, and it’s passed out indiscriminately for people to use and it shouldn’t be,” said Drew Brown, the drivers’ lawyer.
A few weeks ago, CMPD changed its policy and stopped handing out accident reports. Instead, it refers drivers to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.
But Brown said that’s not the point.
He believes it’s OK for CMPD to give out accident reports if it makes people getting them certify it’s not for sales purposes.
“Anybody who pulls a motor vehicle record for any purpose has to certify that they’re not using it to market and hit on people who have not asked for this information and not asked to be hit on via the mail or email or whatever format,” he said.
Francesca Davis supports that.
She was in a wreck and said a body shop called her.
She said the shop said her insurance company contacted the business and requested to help her.
The shop had her accident report and insurance information, so she said she brought her car into the shop.
“I was also young at the time, like 22, so I just went with it,” she said.
She told Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke she eventually found out the shop lied about the insurance company contacting it.
Davis demanded her car back, but that the business said that could not happen unless she paid high storage fees.
“By the time I tried to get it out, it was like $7,000, almost,” she said.
Davis said she let the shop keep her car.
“My car was stolen,” she said. “That’s how I see it.”
A driver is also suing the research company, LexisNexis, for allegedly giving out accident report information, too.
CMPD told Stoogenke that LexisNexis stopped doing that a few weeks ago.
Action 9 emailed the company for more information, but it did not respond.
Another driver is suing multiple well-known personal injury lawyers for allegedly using his accident report for marketing.
“Legally, if someone uses an accident report to solicit you, you’re entitled to $2,500 for each letter he or she mailed you,” Stoogenke said. But you’d probably have to sue to get the money.