New amendment to Public Records Act allows insurance investigators to obtain telephone numbers from vehicle accident reports

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Substitute Senate Bill 284, which has been delivered to Governor DeWine for signature, contains an amendment to the Public Records Act that will be of interest to police agencies in Ohio. As currently written, the Act contains an exception that protects the telephone numbers of parties to a motor vehicle accident involving a fatality, personal injury or property damage in an amount greater than one thousand dollars. The phone numbers are exempt from release pursuant to a public records request when they are contained in any law enforcement record or report. R.C. 149.43(A)(1)(mm). 

Under the new legislation, however, insurers or insurance agents who are investigating an insurance claim resulting from a motor vehicle accident are entitled to the phone numbers. This creates a narrow class of requests where the information must be released. As a result, whether this information may be redacted in response to a public records request will depend on the identity of the requestor and the purpose of the request. 

The new provision will take effect 90 days after Governor DeWine signs the bill.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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