Have you ever heard of the Accident Report Privilege?
Are you concerned about some of the information contained within the accident report? Did you happen to overhear someone talking to the officer at the accident scene and believe that it will be beneficial to your claim?
Well, you better pay attention! Florida law considers communications between police officers and parties involved in motor vehicle accidents to be privileged. This rule was intended to promote honesty in the reporting process. The privilege can be found under Florida Statute §316.066 (4). The statutes reads as follows:
“(4) Except as specified in this subsection, 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. However, subject to the applicable rules of evidence, a law enforcement officer at a criminal trial may testify as to any statement made to the officer by the person involved in the crash if that person’s privilege against self-incrimination is not violated. The results of breath, urine, and blood tests administered as provided in s. 316.1932 or s. 316.1933 are not confidential and are admissible into evidence in accordance with the provisions of s. 316.1934(2).”
This privilege includes statements made to and by police officers with regards to the investigation of the accident. I know that this can be confusing and frustrating, but the privilege was established with the belief that the determination of who is truly at fault for the accident would be likely discovered. It also assists the State of Florida in making highway safety a priority for all.
The privilege, although vast and wide, does have its limitations. Although the driver and owner of the vehicle, as well as any passengers, are protected by this privilege, the privilege does not extend to witnesses. Nor does the privilege extend to the personal observations made by the investigating office. For example, it is permissible to have the investigating office provide testimony regarding measurements and distances, skid marks, resting places of people and cars, and the officer’s recollection of a person’s demeanor or actions that could support a claim that the individual was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
Unfortunately, even if you overheard someone involved in the accident making a report to the police office, you cannot later recount that statement at trial. Allowing the testimony of an eavesdropper or a witness to the privileged statement at trial would defeat the very purpose of the accident report privilege.
Be sure to tell your attorney about any information that you may have regarding eye witnesses. Eyewitnesses are not typically considered “involved” in accidents. Therefore, they can offer testimony regarding their personal observations. You may find out that the person responsible for the accident even made statements directly to the eye witness that can help your personal injury claim.
Lastly, even though the accident report is inadmissible at trial, your attorney still uses this document when preparing for trial and to guide his/her investigation. The report contains very important information that your attorney needs, such as the names of parties involved, available insurance coverages, an outlines of how the accident occurred, possible witnesses, etc..
Please contact our firm if you have any further questions regarding this privilege or you would like to discuss your personal injury claim.
C. Paul Brannon, Esq.