In my personal injury practice, I constantly interview new clients involved in auto accidents to obtain the specifics of the accident, their injuries, and the extent of the available insurance coverage. On most occasions, the client tells me early on in the interview that the other driver was issued a traffic citation for careless driving, violation of the right of way, or some other infraction which implies a finding of fault by the investigating police officer.
Unfortunately, it is my duty at that point to inform the client that, should their case proceed to a jury trial, Florida, as does most states, prohibits any mention of the traffic ticket to the jury, nor any statements which the other driver may have made to the investigating officer pursuant to the accident investigation.
Florida statute 316.066(4), otherwise known as the accident report privilege statute, clearly states: “…each crash report made by a person involved in a crash to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing a crash report required by this statute shall be without prejudice to the individual so reporting. No such reports shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal”. This privilege applies as a corollary to Florida Statute 316.062 and 316.066(3), which requires the driver to provide information to law enforcement officers who are preparing a written report related to the crash. Refusing to provide such information constitutes a non-moving violation for which the driver can be issued an additional citation. As a result, because the statements are mandatory, they cannot be used against the driver in a subsequent adversarial hearing.
The logic behind excluding admission of traffic citations at trial is based on the very real fear that, if the officer is able to tell the jury which driver received the citation, the jurors will ignore the evidence and testimony presented at trial, much of which may have been developed well AFTER the officer made his decision to issue a traffic citation at the scene.
While the client may express disappointment upon hearing this information, I always stress that at the Heyman Law Firm we take great pride in our efforts to fully investigate the circumstances of the crash, and employ investigators and accident reconstruction experts, if necessary, to obtain and develop testimony and evidence to convince the jury that damages should be awarded to our client based on all the surrounding circumstances of the accident. Should you be injured as a result of an auto accident, please contact us to schedule a no-cost consultation.