Court Discusses Florida Accident Report Privilege

November 21, 2019

by Donaldson & Weston

When a car accident occurs in South Florida, in most cases the police will investigate the accident and issue a report regarding their findings. The police will typically take statements from the parties involved in the accident and include those statements in the report. In many cases, the statements provide the truest and most accurate account of the accident from the standpoint of the parties involved.

If a party admits liability in a statement to the police, he or she may try to preclude the injured party from admitting the statement into evidence at trial via the Accident Report Privilege (ARP). Recently, however, a Florida appellate court clarified that the ARP does not grant a party the right to refuse to answer questions in discovery regarding statements made to the police, in a case involving a car striking a pedestrian. If you suffered injuries in a South Florida car accident in which you were struck as a pedestrian it is in your best interest to speak with a seasoned South Florida personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss the facts of your case.

Facts Regarding the Accident

It is alleged that the plaintiff was walking in a crosswalk when he was struck by a car driven by the defendant. The defendant’s wife was in the passenger seat of the car at the time of the accident. The defendant gave a statement to the investigating police officers, which was included in the police report. During the depositions of the defendant, his wife, and the investigating officers plaintiff’s counsel asked questions about the statement, to which the defendant’s counsel objected, arguing the statements were protected by the ARP. Plaintiff’s counsel then filed a motion to compel asking the court to require the defendant to submit to questions regarding the statement.

The Accident Report Privilege

Under Florida law, parties can conduct discovery of any matter that is relevant to the subject action and is not protected by any privilege. It is not grounds for an objection in a deposition that the information sought will not be admissible at trial if the question is likely to lead to relevant information. As such, while privileged information is protected from discovery, inadmissible information is not. The court then analyzed whether information protected by the ARP, which is set forth at section 316.066(4) of the Florida code, is privileged or merely inadmissible at trial.

Upon review of the plain language of the statute, the court found that the ARP merely prevented a party from admitting a police crash report into evidence at trial; it did not make the information contained in the report privileged. The court noted that although the statute was referred to as the “Accident Report Privilege” there was no privileged conferred, and any language indicating a privilege had been removed in previous amendments. Thus the court found that the plaintiff was permitted to question the defendant and his wife regarding the statements made in the report, and granted the plaintiff’s motion.

Consult an Experienced South Florida Pedestrian Accident Attorney About Your Case

If you were a pedestrian injured in a South Florida car accident you should consult an experienced South Florida pedestrian accident attorney about your cases and what compensation you may be able to recover from the responsible party. At Donaldson & Weston our South Florida injury attorneys will aggressively pursue the full amount of damages you may be owed, to assist you in resuming your pre-accident activities. You can contact us at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to set up a free and confidential meeting regarding your case.