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The Importance of the Open Records Act

By Butler Prather LLP on October 23, 2022

The Open Records Act in Georgia, also known as the Georgia Sunshine Law, is designed to provide individuals, news agencies, and other entities access to public records from government bodies. This includes just about any type of record held by a public entity in the state of Georgia. Here, we want to examine the importance of the Open Records Act as well as how this could affect a personal injury civil claim.

Understanding the Open Records Act

Under the Open Records Act in Georgia, just about any record that is kept by a public agency should be available to the public upon request. This includes documents, computer data, video footage, photographs, etcetera. This law is derived from the Freedom of Information Act, and is designed to increase transparency between public agencies and the citizens they serve.

These laws are a crucial component and understanding how governments operate and for ensuring integrity in government offices. The media makes use of the Open Records Act law on a regular basis to obtain information that they wish to report about.

Unless a record has been specifically made exempt, every public record should be available to any, including yourself. If you file an Open Records Act request, you will not need to provide any reason why you wish to obtain this information. If a request is denied, the organization he made the request to must provide citations to the law that shows that they are allowed to prohibit you from accessing them.

Some organizations in Georgia may indeed charge fees to accommodate an Open Records Act request. This does raise concern, because charging fees is a way to keep various individuals from obtaining records. In other words, this puts up another roadblock in a system that is designed to ensure open records access.

Why This Matters for Personal Injury Claims

Aside from the media, lawyers often use the Open Records Act to obtain evidence needed to help prove cases they work on. This includes criminal defense lawyers as well as personal injury lawyers. Often, there is very specific information hidden in public records that could help plaintiffs win their claims against defendants. When a lawyer requests information from a public agency in Georgia, the fact that they are a lawyer does not have any effect on the process. They will not need to provide any special reason for obtaining the information.

Some information that may be important for a personal injury claim includes 911 transcripts, police reports and records, police bodycam footage, other surveillance footage obtained by police officers, and more. This type of evidence can help provide context and help push a plaintiff towards being able to show that the defendant caused their injury by establishing a preponderance of the evidence.

If you or somebody you care about has been injured due to the careless or negligent actions of another party in Georgia, you may need to access public records to help with your case. We strongly encourage you to work with a skilled Atlanta personal injury lawyer who can guide you through this process and make an Open Records Act request on your behalf.

Posted in: Personal Injury

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