As part of my continuing, “If I had a nickel for every time” series, “If I had a nickel …” for every time I told a client that legally, it really usually does not matter who got the ticket, I would be rich.
So how could this be possible? You mean the police officer cannot testify as to who got the ticket? You mean the police officer cannot testify as to what the other guy told him when he admitted he was at fault? Yep, that’s what I mean.
In the state of Florida we have something called the “accident report privilege”. In essence, the privilege is pretty simple; anything that you say to a police officer in the course of his or her crash investigation cannot be repeated in court. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if the at fault party admits to the crash or not. Unless the officer actually witnessed the crash he or she cannot testify as to what happened even though the at fault party admitted to being at fault.
This does not appear to make a whole lot of sense does it? But the legislature had to balance public safety concerns versus the desire to prosecute people for their infractions. The legislature came down on the side of public safety concerns and therefore, these types of statements are privileged.
In addition to statements, the ticket is inadmissible in court. Unless the “at fault “party admits to being guilty or is found guilty, the liability question (fault) must be decided by a potential jury. That is why it really doesn’t matter to me as a personal injury attorney who got the ticket.
Now granted, from a common sense point of view, I certainly am not usually going to take a case where my potential client got the ticket. Obviously it’s a good indication that my guy was at fault and that’s never a good way to start an injury case. The point is that since the ticket is not admissible that alone does not determine whether I take a case or not.
In conclusion, statements made to the police officer about a car crash are inadmissible as is the ticket. What is much more important to me as a personal injury attorney is whether there are independent witnesses, the amount of property damage, and whether the “at fault” party has coverage.