What Evidence is Admissible in the Venus Williams’ Wrongful Death Suit
In the latest news regarding the recent accident involving tennis star Venus Williams in Palm Beach Gardens, police have now released a statement advising Williams actually had a green light when she drove through an intersection and was then hit by a car. According to a recent article in the New York Times, police have now discovered a surveillance video which shows that Williams actually entered the intersection in which the accident took place lawfully. In a statement, the police said the new evidence shows that “Williams lawfully entered the intersection on a circular green traffic signal.” A car then cut in front of Williams and she stopped before continuing through the intersection. This reverses the previous (preliminary) finding that Williams was at fault in causing the accident. There is no report as to how this will affect the pending wrongful death lawsuit that was filed against Williams on June 29th. However, both this scenario and the recently discovered evidence raise a frequently misunderstood issue under Florida law: whether police reports and the contents of those reports are binding in later civil lawsuit between the parties to a motor vehicle accident.
Accident Reports in Civil Motor Vehicle Lawsuits in Florida
A frequently misunderstood issue in many automobile accident cases is the role that a police investigation and the report plays in civil legal proceedings. In many cases, an injured party who sues the driver that injured him or her assumes that a police report, along with any witness statements made to the police, will be available for use as evidence at a civil trial regarding the accident. However, under Florida law, this is not always true.
Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 316.066(4), accident reports are not admissible as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal proceeding regarding a motor vehicle accident. The same is true of any statements made by the participants in the accident to the police officer investigating the accident. This is called the accident report privilege and includes all statements made to and by police officers with regards to the investigation of the accident by those involved. The accident report privilege does not cover any communication made by eyewitnesses who were not involved in the accident, however. According to the Florida courts, the testimony of an eyewitness motorist who was following directly behind the car involved in the accident is not privileged, for instance.
As a concrete illustration of how this law plays out would be that any statements made to police by either the driver of the vehicle that hit Venus Williams who is now suing Williams for the death of her husband or by Venus Williams herself to police will not be admissible in the recently-filed wrongful death lawsuit. Those statements would be privileged under the accident report privilege. The same is true of the initial accident report in which Williams was deemed to be at fault in causing the accident. Any final report that is issued by the police in the wake of the recently discovered surveillance video would also be privileged. However, the statements made by several bystanders to police that Williams ran a red light would not be privileged. (However, Williams’s lawyer would be able to point to the recently-discovered surveillance video that shows Williams lawfully made a turn on green to rebut this testimony.)
Contact the Experienced Accident Attorneys of Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley if You or a Loved One Have Been Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident in Florida
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in which another driver’s negligence caused serious injuries or even death, the experienced motor vehicle accident attorneys at Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley are here for you. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have over 150 years of legal experience representing victims of motor vehicle accidents. Due to our extensive experience litigating motor vehicle accident cases, our experienced trial attorneys know how to prove an automobile accident case by obtaining the key witness statements, taking photographs, and obtaining any and all video surveillance of the accident rather than relying on the accident report to prove our client’s case. If you, a family member or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident caused by another motorist’s negligence, contact us today for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877.694.6079.
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