Do you know how to read a Florida traffic crash report?
The Sunshine State is a popular place for Americans to vacation and retire. So, it should be no surprise that today, the state boasts the third busiest highways in the country, with more than 16 million licensed drivers. Unfortunately, with so many drivers in Florida, accidents are remarkably common.
According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department (FLHSMV), there were 401,533 accidents in 2021, making it one of the most dangerous states in the country. If you’re involved in an accident, getting a copy of an accident report in Florida is critical to pursuing compensation because these reports contain all the ins and outs of your accident.
This guide will teach you how to read a Florida traffic crash report.
What is the Florida Crash Report Manual, and How Can It Help?
To the ordinary person, Florida crash reports appear confusing and complicated. But they contain all of the details needed by insurers, lawyers, and law enforcement to understand what happened in the eyes of the attending officer.
The FLHSMV has published a Florida Uniform Traffic Crash Report Manual outlining the process officers will follow when filling out a report. This is the Florida Crash Report Manual and is a valuable resource if you are looking at a crash report for the first time.
Reading this can provide much-needed guidance in understanding the crash report Florida format and answer some of your niche questions.
When might you need to know how to read a Florida State Police accident report? Under Florida law, the police must be called in the event of an accident if a crash involves:
- An injury.
- A death.
- One of the parties has fled the scene.
- Suspected influence of drugs or alcohol.
- One or more vehicles have been towed from the scene.
- Property damage over $500.
For practical purposes, all minor road traffic accidents warrant reporting to the police. If the police are called, you will receive an accident report. Browse the Florida Crash Report Manual for more information on what you can expect to see.
How to Read Your Florida State Police Accident Report?
Page 1 – The Accident Summary
The first page of your Florida crash report will provide all the basic information about your crash. At the top of page one, the officer will fill out basic information about the accident, such as the crash's date, time, and location.
The second section of page one includes information about the drivers and vehicles involved in the crash. Take the time to check these pertinent details, such as names, addresses, insurance information, plate numbers, vehicle descriptions, and vehicle identification numbers.
The officer will further outline the damage to each vehicle and any injuries recorded to occupants and pedestrians.
Finally, the officer will document the posted speed limit and any alcohol or drug tests administered at the scene.
Page 2 – Conditions that Led to the Crash
The next page of your Florida crash report will outline the contributing conditions that led to the accident.
These factors could include but are not limited to:
- Vehicle defects
- Driver actions
- Road conditions
- Weather conditions
- Sequence of events
Note that this is merely the officer’s opinion and may not represent every contributing factor. Multiple factors can be listed, with each condition referred to with a code. You can find a complete list of Florida crash report codes within the manual mentioned above.
At the bottom of page two, the officer will document any traffic violations that led to the crash, such as driving the wrong way or speeding. If any charges are listed, the officer will record the driver’s name, statute number, charge, and citation number.
Page 3 – The Investigating Officer Narrative
After investigating, the officer will provide their views of the accident on the third page.
This is a written narrative of how the investigating officer believes the accident occurred. It may include information unavailable in any other section of the Florida crash report template, such as any arrests or witness statements.
Page three also contains a passenger information section, including names, addresses, and other witness contact information. It will also mention whether any parties received medical treatment or were taken to a local hospital.
Page 4 – Illustrated Diagram
The final page of your crash report will contain the illustrated diagram. Again, the officer is expected to illustrate how they believed the incident occurred.
If you need help understanding this diagram after carrying out a Florida police report lookup, or you dispute how the officer has portrayed the accident, contact your legal team.
What is the Accident Report Privilege?
Whether you file your own accident report or an officer files it, fairness and impartiality are always a concern because accident reports contain a significant degree of opinion.
Florida has implemented a special reporting exemption for reports submitted by a law enforcement officer, the Accident Report Privilege.
The Accident Report Privilege is an effort to encourage honesty among drivers, passengers, and witnesses. It also aims to uphold the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The law on Accident Report Privilege states that:
“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.”
However, there are limits to these protections. Florida courts repeatedly rule that there are limitations to the Accident Report Privilege, meaning that certain information cannot be viewed as inadmissible because it could be tangible proof of fault.
For example, if a driver admits they fell asleep at the wheel or were not supposed to be driving by order of their doctors, this would be proof that the person was at least partially at fault for the accident.
Other exemptions exist as well. For example, statements made during a criminal investigation are not protected. It also will not protect you from the results of a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer/blood test at the station.
Finally, Accident Report Privilege offers zero protection if there are questions regarding the driver's identity. For example, if a driver claims they were not driving the car at the time, an officer may use accident report information to prove the driver's identity.
Overall, though, the purpose of the Accident Report Privilege is designed to prevent statements made at the scene of the accident from being used against you in court. This is because people say things they may not mean after a traumatic experience. Moreover, Florida wants to encourage all involved parties to tell the whole truth.
Where Can You Get a Florida Crash Report?
A Florida crash report may be necessary for accidents where the police do not need to be called. However, you can file your own crash reports in some cases and should do so if you intend to pursue justice.
As always, if you are struggling with your accident report for any reason, ensure you enlist a qualified lawyer.