How do I Access Car Accident Records?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

The manner in which you can access car accident records typically depends on the jurisdiction in which you live or hope to obtain records. In many places, you can obtain car accident records by contacting a local department of motor vehicles or similar agency. Some jurisdictions, however, may require you to obtain a court order if you wish to retrieve a record for an accident in which you were not involved. Additionally, you may obtain a vehicle history report to learn whether or not a car you would like to buy has ever been involved in an accident.

Car accident records may be used as evidence in a personal injury case.
Car accident records may be used as evidence in a personal injury case.

One way to access car accident records is through a local department of motor vehicles or a similar agency. If you are trying to access accident reports for accidents in which you were driving or otherwise involved, you may have to provide basic information such as your name, address, phone number, and other identifying details in order to obtain an accident report. You may also have to provide details about your vehicle, and in some cases, your driver’s license number. Additionally, you will likely have to pay a fee.

The local DMV keeps records of all vehicle accidents within their jurisdiction.
The local DMV keeps records of all vehicle accidents within their jurisdiction.

If you want to retrieve an accident report but you were not the driver of the car or involved in the accident, the steps you'll have to take may depend on where the accident occurred. In some places, you may be able to obtain an accident report by filling in a form at a local department of motor vehicles or similar agency and paying a fee. In other jurisdictions, however, another person’s accident report may be considered confidential. In such a case, you may have to request a copy of the party’s accident report through your jurisdiction’s court system. For example, if the accident report is needed for a lawsuit, you may file a motion to retrieve it as part of your case.

In some places, you may not have to contact a motor vehicle agency to access car accident records. Instead, you may visit your local police department in order to obtain the records you need. Often, you will need to contact the police department's records and identification division to access the records.

If you do not need a car accident record for a particular person but instead need to know if a car you want to purchase has been involved in accident, the procedure you’ll have to follow may be different. In such a case, you will typically need to obtain a vehicle history report. There are many companies that sell vehicle history reports that include accident information as well as other information that may help you make your decision. You can typically obtain these reports by providing the vehicle identification number of the car you are considering and paying a fee.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


If you are trying to find out whether a used car is worth the money then the best thing to do is have a qualified mechanic, whom you trust, check out the vehicle from bumper to bumper. A good mechanic can tell you what condition the car is in at that moment, and this is really what you should be concerned about.


Whenever I have had any problems or questions about a vehicle or getting information about a vehicle I have contacted my local DMV and they are great about helping get what I need. Even when they can't help me directly, they will tell me where to go to get what I need.

The DMV websites are so much better than they were a few years ago, so you can usually go to the website and figure out what you need to do. In some cases you will still need to talk to a real person, but the website is a good place to start.


Some cars that are involved in car crash accidents will have salvage titles attached to their records. When I was in an accident in my old Honda, the insurance company declared that the car was a total loss because the cost to repair the car would have been greater than the car's total value.

When this happens, the state will make a note of this on the car's title and this is then referred to as the junk title or salvage title, and it lets you know what happened to the car and you don't have to worry about chasing down accident records. Unfortunately not all cars involved in accidents have these type of titles, and we are left trying to figure out how to get more information on the vehicles by reading articles about ways to obtain car accident records.

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