In the case of Steven Paul Anderson v. Mary Mitchell, Case Number 2D18-2864 (Fla. 2d DCA April 5, 2019), Florida’s Second DCA held that Florida’s so-called “accident report privilege” is not a true privilege to prevent disclosure but is instead just a bar on using such statements at trial.
This was a car accident case where Mitchell claimed that Anderson struck her while she was in a crosswalk. During depositions of Anderson and other witnesses, defense counsel objected to questions about statements that Anderson made to the police officer at the scene of the accident. The witnesses refused to answer the questions because defense counsel claimed privilege under seciton 316.066(4), Fla. Stat.
Thereafter, the plaintiff moved the trial judge to compel the witnesses to answer. The trial judge required Anderson and the other witnesses to provide answers.
As mentioned above, section 316.066(4), Fla. Stat. contains Florida’s so-called “accident report privilege.” The statute states:
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… The result of breath, urine, and blood tests administered as provided in s. 316.1932 or s. 316.1933 are not confidential and shall be admissible into evidence…
The Second DCA said that “[u]nder the plain language of the statute, the only limitation on the information is that it may not be used as evidence at trial…Thus, the statutes make the protected information inadmissible, not privileged.”
The Second DCA also cited other situations where evidence is not privileged but is yet inadmissible including:
- settlement negotiations to prove liability
- payment of medical expenses to prove liability
- pleas and plea offers in criminal cases cannot be used in civil cases
Origins Of The So-Called “Privilege”
So why do we call it the “accident report privilege” if it’s not really a privilege?
The answer lies in the fact that the Florida legislature used the word “privilege” in the statute up until a 1989 amendment when the word was deleted. The Second DCA commented that “[u]nfortunately, courts have continued to refer to the statute as creating an ‘accident report privilege’ despite the 1989 amendment.”
Perhaps we should stop calling it a privilege. It might be too late as the name seems to be sticking.
A true privilege in Florida would be something that is not only inadissible at trial but is also something that is not discoverable. These privileges are attorney-client privilege, husband-wife privilege, psychotherapist privilege, Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and work product privilege.
Get Legal Counsel For Your Case
If you have been involved in a car accident in Central Florida, you are in for the fight of your life with the insurance company. For the best chance of success for your Florida car accident lawsuit, you should hire a Lakeland, Florida car accident attorney. A consultation with an attorney is free.