The short answer is, it depends. Florida law considers communications between police officers and parties involved in motor vehicle accidents to be privileged. The reasoning behind this privilege is to promote truthfulness in reporting the facts to the police. The Hallandale Beach car accident lawyers at South Florida Law, PLLC explain whether or not traffic accident reports can be used as evidence in court in Florida and how this may affect your case.
Florida Laws Regarding Admissibility of Traffic Crash Reports
According to Florida Statute §316.066(4), accident reports are not admissible as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal nor are any statements made by the participants in the accident to the police officer investigating the accident. Florida Statute §316.066(4), states: each accident report made a by person involved in an accident and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing an accident report required by this section shall be without prejudice to the individual so reporting. No such report or statement shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal. The result of breath, urine, and blood tests administered as provided in §316.1932 or §316.1933 are not confidential and shall be admissible into evidence in accordance with the provisions of §316.1934.
What is the Accident Report Privilege in Florida?
The accident report privilege includes all statements made to and by police officers with regards to the investigation of the accident. The purpose of the accident report privilege is to promote truthfulness in reporting accidents to the police. This helps in the determination of who is truly at fault for the accident. It also assists the State of Florida in making highway safety a priority for all. The intent of the privilege is to benefit the person making the statement and the person involved in the accident. The goal is to encourage the person making the statement and the person involved in the accident to speak truthfully without any prejudice to them in any subsequent civil trial.
The accident report privilege covers any communication made to the police officer by anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident. This includes the driver, the owner of the vehicle, and the occupants of the vehicle at the time of the accident. The accident report and statements made to the investigating officer may not be used for impeachment at trial. Even if someone overhears an individual who was involved in the automobile accident making a report to the police officer, said individual may not testify as to what the involved party said to the investigating officer. Allowing the testimony of an eavesdropper or a witness to the privileged statement at trial would defeat the main purpose of the accident report privilege. But, are there exclusions to the privilege? Keep reading as our Miami car accident lawyer explains.
What is Excluded by the Florida Accident Report Privilege?
The accident report privilege does not protect communications given by eyewitnesses to the accident that who were not involved in the accident nor does it protect findings and statements made in criminal or homicide investigation reports.
Additionally, the results of field sobriety tests, blood tests nor breathalyzer tests are not considered to be confidential communications and are admissible as evidence in civil and criminal cases. Further, Police officer’s tangible evidence findings at the accident scene are not protected by the privilege. Such finings may be introduced as evidence. This means physical findings such as skid marks are not privileged pursuant to Fla. Stat. §316.066(4).
Be aware that the privilege does not apply in criminal trials absent a Fifth Amendment violation. Another important exception to the accident report privilege exists when the identity of a driver involved in the automobile accident is at issue. Therefore, if someone states that they were not at the scene of the accident or not the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, testimony may be introduced to prove the identity of the driver, according to our Ft. Lauderdale injury lawyers.
Contact Our South Florida Car Accident Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation About Your Case
When litigating automobile accident case in Florida, the accident report is a useful guide and will provide you with an outline of how the accident may have happened, the names of the parties involved, and potentially the names of any witnesses. However, unless the accident report satisfies one of the exceptions mentioned, it will not be admissible into evidence.
So if you cannot use the Florida Traffic Crash Report as evidence, how do you prove how an accident happened? This is done by obtaining witnesses statements, taking photographs, interviewing the client, and deposing the at fault driver. If you have been injured or involved in a car accident, contact our Hollywood, FL car accident lawyers today at (954) 932-7877 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.