Florida Accident Report Privilege

Florida, like most states, requires that when a motor vehicle crash occurs, police must be called, and a crash report must be prepared by the investigating officer.  However, despite this legal duty to create an accident report, almost every state, including Florida, has some sort of accident report privilege.  In Florida, the accident report privilege provides that statements made to police officers who are investigating a motor vehicle accident cannot be used in criminal proceedings or a civil lawsuit against anyone who makes such a statement and also provides that police accident reports cannot be introduced into evidence in any subsequent civil or criminal proceedings regarding that accident.  There are a number of constitutional and other rationales for the existence of the accident report privilege, but an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney often can obtain the same information, which is protected because it is in the accident report, through other means to present his or her client’s case to a jury.

What is the Scope and Extent of Florida’s Accident Report Privilege and What Exactly is Protected?

As noted above, under Florida law, police are required to be called any time a motor vehicle accident occurs.  Section 316.066(1)(a), Florida Statutes, provides that a traffic report must be completed by local police and forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement within ten days when an accident results in death or injury, when a party flees an accident scene, when a party is under the influence of alcohol, or when a vehicle is so damaged it must be towed from the accident scene.  However, just because these reports must be completed pursuant to Florida law does not mean their contents are fair game in a lawsuit regarding an accident.

Admissions or statements made by a witness or someone involved in a motor vehicle accident in Florida during a police accident investigation may not be used as evidence in any subsequent administrative hearing or during a civil or criminal trial pursuant to Florida’s accident report privilege.  The relevant statutea specifically provides that, “Each crash report made by a person involved in a crash and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing a crash report required by this section shall be without prejudice to the individual so reporting.  Such report or statement may not be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal.”  Therefore, if you are involved in an accident and the other driver admits to a police officer who is called out to the scene to investigate that the person caused the accident, the contents of that person’s statement to police would be inadmissible, or could not be used in evidence at trial, in a case involving the motor vehicle accident.

However, judges have determined there is certain information which is not protected by the accident privilege, such as information regarding tangible evidence of an automobile accident, such as the location of the accident, the respective vehicles’ locations at the time of the crash, and the existence and extent of damage to the vehicles as a result of the accident.  There are also exceptions to the accident report privilege, such as, if a person who is involved in an accident makes an “excited utterance” against his or her interest to the investigating officer.  An example which the judge may find to be admissible at trial would if a party tells the police officer that he or she fell asleep at the wheel, thereby causing the accident.

Why Does the Accident Report Privilege Exist in the First Place?

The idea behind the accident report privilege is to encourage people to be as candid and truthful as possible to a police officer who may be investigating a traffic accident without that information somehow later being used against them.  The privilege also protects the Fifth Amendment rights of the persons involved in motor vehicle accidents by keeping any statements the person may make from being used against the person in a criminal trial.

Contact the Experienced Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys of Schwed, Adams & McGinley 

An experienced motor vehicle accident attorney can find creative ways to obtain the same information that is protected by the accident report privilege through other means and introduce it into evidence at a trial.  At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined practice representing victims of all sorts of motor vehicle accidents.  We know the right ways to obtain and utilize the important information that may be contained in a privileged accident report so it is admissible into evidence at a trial.  Therefore, if you, a family member, or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident because of another motorist’s actions, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation.  You can rest assured that our experienced motor vehicle accident attorneys, with vast experience in building the best possible case for our clients, will use every means at our disposal to obtain the evidence most favorable to your case and present it to a jury to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.