Last year, a Whistleblower reader named Terry got into a fender bender. The police took down his name and address for their incident report on the accident, as they always do. Within three weeks, Terry started getting mail.

“We help people who have been injured. Call us!” urged a lawyer.

“I’m sorry to hear that you were recently involved in a car accident,” wrote two chiropractors in identical letters. “Hopefully you were not seriously injured.” Just in case he was aching, they included “gift certificates” for free massages.

To his chagrin, Terry learned that certain professionals peruse accident reports to find potential clients and patients. He inquired with several agencies about whether those records were available to anyone who wants to see them, and got mixed answers. In fact, motor vehicle accident reports submitted to the state Department of Public Safety aren’t public records. But basic data gathered by law enforcement agencies on incident reports, including the names of drivers involved in accidents, are public.

So the professionals drumming up business by combing through accident reports aren’t breaking any privacy laws. Terry still doesn’t think that makes it right. Is it ambulance chasing? Or the American way?

 

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