LA County Sheriffs May Have A Good Reason For Not Releasing What Caused Tiger Woods' Crash

Illustration for article titled LA County Sheriffs May Have A Good Reason For Not Releasing What Caused Tiger Woods' Crash
Image: Ringo H.W. Chiu (AP)

Tiger Woods had a very public crash in a Genesis GV80 last month, the cause of which has been the subject of much speculation. Recently ABC News reported that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has determined the cause of the crash.

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One problem: The sheriff won’t say.

Illustration for article titled LA County Sheriffs May Have A Good Reason For Not Releasing What Caused Tiger Woods' Crash
Image: Lee Jin-man (AP)

To recap, Tiger Woods was driving a GV80 in Rolling Hills Estates, a high-end community that sits on the Palos Verdes peninsula west of downtown Los Angeles. Woods lost control of the vehicle, ran off the road and the SUV flipped on its side. Woods incurred injuries that resulted in multiple surgeries, and he’s still recovering.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been the face of the investigation since the crash. He has been criticized for his handling of it, seemingly to protect Woods and the privacy of a popular sports figure. He’s given conflicting details about the crash and jumped to conclusions before the investigation was done, initially calling the crash just an accident in a place where crashes are fairly frequent.

It appears that the protection of Woods’ privacy has extended to the cause of the crash. While no warrant was issued to see whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash, there was a warrant issued for the vehicle’s event data recorder. Whether the data in the recorder contains the cause of the crash will remain unknown as well, at least for now.

Illustration for article titled LA County Sheriffs May Have A Good Reason For Not Releasing What Caused Tiger Woods' Crash
Image: Stefanie Dazio (AP)
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In a press conference, Villanueva cited “privacy issues” in regard to releasing information:

We have reached out to Tiger Woods and his personnel. There’s some privacy issues on releasing information on the investigation so we’re going to ask them if they waive the privacy and then we will be able to do a full release on all the information regarding the accident. We have all the contents of the black box, we’ve got everything. It’s completed, signed, sealed, and delivered. However, we can’t release it without the permission of the people involved in the collision.

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The vague “them” he’s referring to would be Woods’ lawyers and representatives. According to Joseph Giacalone, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, this is unheard of. Speaking to ABC News he said:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a department ever ask for permission like that. What happens if his lawyers say ‘no, you can’t send it out now.’ And then where does that leave us?

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If an average citizen had been the one who crashed, few would care about the details in a case where no other people were hurt. But then withholding the information until checking with the person wouldn’t be done, Professor Giacalone said, adding that if it were just a simple matter of health privacy the sheriff could simply say it’s a medical issue and be done with it.

Not satisfied with this lack of information, we did some digging. I was put in contact with an attorney, Anthony Daye, of the Daye Firm in Huntington Beach, California. He pretty much summed up the sheriff’s reasoning as having to do with HIPAA laws. If you’re unfamiliar with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), it’s a federal law passed in 1996 that essentially protects the release of sensitive health information without prior consent or knowledge of the person.

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This may explain why the department would need to speak to Woods and his representatives before releasing information — if the matter is actually health-related.

Daye put forward another interesting question that no one is addressing or answering: Why was there no toxicology report done on Woods either at the crash site or in the days afterward? Especially since the question has been raised over whether he was asleep at the wheel, a reasonable point given Woods’ prior history of abusing Ambien.

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So it could come down to one of two things: It’s something that incriminates Woods, or it has to do with his health. Whatever the reason is, it’s doubtful if we will ever know the full extent of what really happened behind the wheel.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Dad. Lover of all things with 4 wheels. Weird interest in buses.

DISCUSSION

Fine. Who cares anyway? I could see if he had injured someone other than himself, then maybe release the cause. Otherwise it just seems like paparazzi ambulance chasing.