Accident Report Privilege
When there is a crash or accident involving property damage and personal injuries, police are typically called to the scene of the accident. While a police report is not necessarily require to pursue a case or claim, it is recommended that the police are called to the accident / crash scene to document the incident, property damage, insurance and other issues. It is also helpful if the other driver receives a traffic citation for the accident / crash. Insurance companies will review the applicable police report / crash report when evaluating the case or claim.
Many people believe that insurance company for the at-fault driver will automatically pay for the property damage, medical bills, and personal injuries IF the at-fault driver is cited for the accident with a Florida traffic citation. Insurance companies will evaluate the applicable police report but will not automatically pay out any benefits or claims until the insurance company conducts its own investigation. The insurance company will discuss the details of the crash with the insured driver to find out the other driver's version of the facts. If the police officer did not personally witness the crash as it was taking place, the police officer will be just piecing the information today and making an educated guess or conclusion as to fault for the crash / accident.
Florida has a special set of laws in place designated as the Accident Report Privilege. These laws are set forth in Section 316.066, Florida Statutes Written Reports of Crashes. Section 316.066 (4), Florida Statutes, states 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).
As noted in bold, the police report may not be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal. As such, even if the police officer cites the other driver for speeding, reckless driving, or careless driving, the insurance company for the other driver can still debate or litigate the issue of liability or fault for the crash or accident. Certainly, it is helpful if the other driver is cited for the accident; however, the traffic citation under these circumstances is not absolutely binding on the other driver or his / her automobile insurance company in the handling of the insurance claim or the defense of the case if a civil lawsuit is filed.
The Florida Accident Report privilege is just one of many issues that arise when dealing with the issues and challenges of a Florida crash or accident. It is important for an injury victim to contact an experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney for advice, consultation, and legal representation. David A. Wolf has 30 years of experience in handling personal injury cases including automobile accidents or crashes. Contact David A. Wolf right now to better understand your rights, Florida law, and courses of action to protect and enforce your legal rights.