How Strong is the Accident Report Privilege?
After a car accident, most people who go to see an attorney will talk about what was said at the scene of the accident (assuming they were conscious and physically able to hear what anyone was saying). Many victims feel that what the investigating police officer said, or what other people at the scene of the accident said, is great evidence for any future trial.
The Accident Report Privilege
However, the accident report privilege renders inadmissible any statement made to the police officer during the course of his/her investigation. The logic behind this is to encourage people to be as honest and truthful during the investigation without fear that whatever they say will be used against them later on.
Getting Around the Privilege
However, there are some exceptions to this privilege.
For example, the privilege only extends to statements made to a law enforcement officer in the process of the investigation. That means that statements made to other drivers, to on-scene first responders, or even to police officers that are not for the purpose of completing an accident report may not be protected by the privilege.
Additionally, a recent case has held that the accident report privilege prevents these statements from being admissible in trial, but that doesn’t mean that the statements can’t be discovered in the course of discovery. In other words, you can learn about who said what in the course of gathering evidence for trial, so long as you don’t use that information in trial.
Contrast this with information that can neither be used at trial, or even uncovered by the other side through discovery. For example, the other side can never learn about privileged conversations you have with your lawyer during any stage of representation.
What good does it do if these statements are inadmissible? Sometimes discovering inadmissible statements can lead to admissible evidence. Additionally, sometimes just getting a defendant to admit, for example, that he or she admitted guilt at the scene of the accident, may be enough to convince an insurance company to settle a case for a larger sum.
Lastly, privileges generally apply to statements, not facts. Thus, asking witnesses and even investigating officers what they saw or observed, may be admissible in trial (although you do often run into the problems of faded memories as time passes).
Contact the West Palm Beach car accident attorneys at the Celeste Law Firm today to discuss ways to help you recover damages no matter how severe your injuries may be in any type of accident.