What is the Florida Accident Report Privilege? Information from Your Flagler Beach Personal Injury Attorney
When there is an automobile accident in Florida, there often is a police report or crash report that documents the identify of each driver, the details for the vehicles, insurance information, statements of the drivers, statements of the witnesses, a diagram of the accident scene per the officer, assessment of fault per the officer (if officer makes such a conclusion), and the issuance of a citation (if an officer issues a citation).
Many people believe that the issuance of a citation to the other driver concludes any issues or questions of liability. This belief or mindset is not accurate. Even if the other driver is issued a citation and determined to be at fault by the investigating officer, the issue of liability or fault can still be an issue in a civil case. Let's discuss this in context of an accident. John Smith stops his car and then is rear ended. There are no witnesses to the crash. The rear ending driver (Mary Jones) is issued a citation for the crash for Following Too Closely. John Smith then pursues an injury claim against Mary Jones. The insurance company for Mary Jones can still contest liability despite the findings and conclusions in the crash report. Mary Jones could claim that John Smith was driving erratically and stopped abruptly without any reason for the abrupt stop. While this does not see fair or right, Florida law does not give the power to the investigating officer to be judge and jury for the insurance claims and civil cases that stem from the crash. The law that embodies this concept is the Florida Accident Report Privilege.
Under Section 316.066 (4), Florida Statutes, accident reports / crash reports are not admissible as evidence in any criminal or civil trial. Furthermore, the statements of the participants (drivers, owners of the vehicles, and passengers) in the accident to the police officer are not admissible either. The purpose of this law is to encourage participants in a crash to provide information and to promote truthfulness at the scene of an accident. The law benefits those making the statements and the public in general by allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to statistics and relevant information on persons involved in crashes in the State of Florida.
While statements by the participants are not admissible, the test results of blood, urine, and breath are not considered confidential under the Florida Accident Report Privilege and can be admitted as evidence in accordance with other Florida Statues on point in a civil and / or criminal proceeding.
Statements made by witnesses who were not participants in the accident can be admissible as evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding. It should be noted that each particular person and case will need to be evaluated to determine the applicability of the Florida Accident Report Privilege to the particular set of facts.
Even if a person receives a citation following a crash, this person is not bound by the findings of the officer which may be inaccurate or wrong. As such, injury victims, who happened to receive a traffic citation, may still be able to pursue a claim for injuries against the other driver and / or the owner of the other vehicle. There will still be a burden of proof to show that the other driver was at fault for the crash.
Because of the nuances and complexities of Florida law, it is important for an injury victim to consult with an experienced Florida personal injury attorney to discuss the law, applicable legal rights and defenses, and the recommended courses of action.
David Wolf is a personal injury attorney with over 32 years of experience focusing in cases involving car accident, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, and other types of crashes. He offers a Free Consultation to provide each potential client with some guidance and direction as to Florida laws and recommended courses of action. David Wolf is a proud Flagler Beach resident and small business owner. He handles cases in Flagler County, the surrounding areas, as well as the rest of the State of Florida. Call David Wolf today at (386) 348-HOWL or (386) 348-4695 or send him an e-mail at email@example.com