Who Does the Accident Report Privilege Apply To?

In a recent decision the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida was asked to address the question of how to properly apply the accident report privilege. In the case of Sottilaro v. Figueroa, So.3d, 37 FLW D330 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012), the defense sought to use an accident report in order to impeach a witness who was only an observer to the accident. The Plaintiff’s raised an objection citing the accident report privilege.

Florida Statute 316.066 defines the accident report privilege and provides that “each crash report made by a person involved in a crash and any statement by such person to a law enforcement office for the purpose of completing a crash report required 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 Second District Court in Sottilaro clarified the intent of the privilege and ruled that the privilege is the constitutional right against self incrimination and as such “the privilege only applies to the driver, owner, or occupant of a vehicle because those are the only people compelled to make a report under the statutes.” In the Sottilaro case the statements in question were from eye witnesses and not anyone involved in the accident and thus the court distinguished these witnessees from a driver, owner, or occupant given that they were not “required to make a report.”

Often times there are several witnesses to a car accident and each witness may play a vital role in having a successful outcome at trial. Thus when meeting with your Tampa personal injury attorney it is important to disclose all witnesses who were at the scene of the accident, which includes not only the drivers and occupants of the vehicles but those who may have witnessed the accident as well. Your personal injury attorney will then be able to address what testimony and evidence will be admissible in the event the case moves to trial.