Spousal Confidentiality in a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Florida

Florida public policy supports the implementation of a strong spousal evidentiary privilege, so as to preserve goodwill, peace, and trust in the marital relationship.  Public policy further dictates that healthy and functional marriages are fundamental to the well-being of a civilized society.

Marital communications need not be innocent in terms of their content.  A spouse may refuse to disclose confidential marital communications even if the information therein would obviously implicate the other spouse.

Suppose that a man is the plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident case.  He was injured as a result of the defendant-driver’s negligent actions, but in reality, he has exaggerated the accident and its effects.  If the defendant were to call the man’s wife as a witness to verify these claims, both she and her husband would be entitled to claim the spousal privilege to prevent disclosure of confidential communications.

If the man told his wife in confidence that he had exaggerated the accident and his injuries, they could both still claim the privilege and refuse to disclose such information, despite it being potentially valuable to the defendant’s arguments, and despite the fact that the information might reveal that the plaintiff lied under oath – a criminal act.

If the wife wanted to disclose this information, the plaintiff-husband could claim his own spousal confidentiality privilege and prevent her from disclosing it.

Though the spousal confidentiality privilege in Florida is quite expansive, it is not absolute and there are exceptions.  It should not be seen as a protective shield in every case.

If you or someone you love has been injured as the result of someone else’s wrongful acts or omissions, seek legal guidance from a skilled Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer at David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A.

Confidential Marital Communications

file with confidential labelMarital communications are only subject to the spousal privilege if they are confidential.  The intended recipient of the communication must be the spouse, exclusively.  Communications between spouses that were intended to be confidential but which a third party overheard are not privileged (so long as the communicating spouse knew or should have known that the communication was likely to be overheard).

In a personal injury lawsuit, the spousal evidentiary privilege gives both spouses the ability to refuse to disclose confidential marital communications, and further, gives each spouse the ability to prevent the other from disclosing confidential marital communications.  The privilege covers oral, written, and gesture-based marital communications.

Suppose that a married couple whispers to each other in their own home.  This communication is likely to be privileged, even if someone does overhear bits and pieces of the conversation somehow, as they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Now, suppose that a married couple is speaking at a normal volume in the middle of a busy park.  Though they might not expect someone to be interested in listening to their conversation, it is certainly possible that a third party overhears their conversation.  This communication is not likely to be privileged as the court is likely to find that the spouses should have known that a conversation conducted at a normal volume in a busy park would be overheard.

To sum up, marital communications are only privileged if they are made in confidence.  Neither spouse may claim the privilege if their communications were reasonably overheard by a third party.

Florida Rules on Divorce and Continuation of the Privilege

Divorce does not necessarily prevent the spousal privilege from being claimed.  Under Florida law, confidential communications between the spouses during the marriage remain subject to the privilege.

Importantly, the marital communications privilege cannot be asserted for communications – even those that are confidential – that occurred between spouses or ex-spouses before the beginning of the marriage, or after the end of a marriage.  Confidential communications that occurred during marriage are still privileged, however.

Observations Are Not Privileged in Florida

The spousal privilege in Florida protects marital communications only – observations made by a spouse during marriage are not privileged.

For example, if a husband communicates to his wife in confidence about how he was intoxicated when he hit a pedestrian, then that communication would be privileged.  On the other hand, if the husband came back on the night of the pedestrian accident obviously intoxicated (i.e. having trouble maintaining his balance, slurring his words, etc.) and the wife observed these behaviors, she could be compelled to testify as to these observations.  The spousal privilege would not apply as an observation is not a “communication.”

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to another person’s negligence or actions, consider seeking counsel from a proficient South Florida personal injury attorney at David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A.

Client Testimonials

“…the settlement I received was much higher than anticipated”

Fuchs was my car accident attorney and was very responsive from the first call. I had medical care the next day and the whole process was smooth. They handled everything with the insurance companies and coordinated all of the necessary medical information. It was a long process and in the end the settlement I received was much higher than anticipated I am more than happy and grateful for the outcome.

Sean O.
Google Review
“Not only did I get the medical attention I needed but I was compensated handsomely.”

It’s been a long bumpy road to recovery but with David and his office’s help, we finally got it done! Through a great network of professionals, David Fuchs makes a good experience out of what could’ve been quite a headache. Not only did I get the medical attention I needed but I was compensated handsomely. Thank you!

Giovanni G.
Google Review
“…they didn’t settle for anything and my boyfriend and I got what we deserved.”

I got in an accident in December 2021 when everyone was short staffed and insurance companies was not responsive. My boyfriend reached out to David F. and what a life changing experience. We had the pleasure of having all our worries handed to professional help. They worked diligently on our case, answered questions when asked and kept us updated on changes. More importantly they didn’t settle for anything and my boyfriend and I got what we deserved. I have dealt with others in the past but David got me the most according to the facts presented and never backed down when the insurance companies tried to make us settle for less. Thank you David, Jessica and the team for all your effort and hard work. I will recommend them to family and friends. [They’re] the best in town!

Sheila N.
Google Review
“Best lawyer in Broward County”
Evans P.
Google Review
“Mr. Fuchs and his staff were very helpful.”

I highly recommend Law offices of David Fuchs. Mr. Fuchs and his staff were very helpful. The case was handled in a timely manner and I was always informed if there were any changes or updates with my case.

Velouse G.
Google Review
“Mr. Fuchs is one of the hardest working attorneys that I know.”

Mr. Fuchs is one of the hardest working attorneys that I know. He is really good at what he does and puts 110% in you case. I have been using him for 19 years now and refer all my friends to him. I can leave him alone with my case and not call him all the time. I know he is working hard in my case. When he has any information he calls me and we go from there. There are not a lot of attorneys I can do that with! If you have any Personal Injuries please do call him. You won’t be disappointed!!

Libby E.
Google Review
“I would definitely refer to this firm as the go-to Florida personal injury gurus.”

At first I was afraid…I was petrified! I truly was! But the extensive knowledge, patience and professionalism I received brought me not only such peace and assurance that I was in good hands, but we got through my case like shining stars! David made sure I understood exactly what, when, where, why and [answered] whatever question I had. I would definitely refer to this firm as the go-to Florida personal injury gurus.

Donna M.
Google Review
“They have a wonderful team.”

…took care of my well-being [and were] very informative about my situation. [T]hey were on the ball when it came down to settling…I highly recommend David.

Nicholas G.
Google Review
“My experience with David Fuchs was awesome.”

I got a really good return… thank you David Fuchs and staff for being so helpful and working so hard to help us, you are appreciated.

Yvette W.
Google Review
“This is a great law office.”

The David I Fuchs law office is a group of excellent people that helped to their fullest potential. They treated me with respect and I really appreciate that. This is a great law office.

Jonathan Z.
Google Review
“Never did I imagine myself getting into an accident.”

It has been an unexpected journey since stepping foot in Florida. Never did I imagine myself getting into an accident. I just want to thank the staff and all the support. The Therapy the doctors; you guys were awesome and made me feel better in my situation. This the first time I ever experience such a thing but I’m blessed , thankful and behind it all DAVID FUCHS who made it happen for me.

Sade P.
Google Review
“They helped tremendously!”

I would totally recommend David to everyone. They’re extremely professional and work in a timely manner. They helped tremendously!

A Boone
Google Review
“I highly recommend this man.”

A good man knows, his law 35 years experience. Will get the job done and help you and your family get compensated for you pain and damages. I highly recommend this man. I want to revisit my review and say that Mr. Fuchs always picks up his phone and answer any questions that may pertain to my case. Thank you, David.

N. Hit
Google Review
“He was able to settle my case with little to no trouble and did so in a very professional manner.”

David Fuchs was my car accident attorney. He was able to settle my case with little to no trouble and did so in a very professional manner. I would highly recommend him to others.

Samantha D.
Google Review
“…all went good and successful. thank you so much for all your help.”

I got into an accident for the first time and I didn’t know what do or how things works, but I was lucky to find a professional and helpful people to guide through this experience.
They did take care of my case all went good and successful thank you so much for all your help.

Karen G.
Google Review
“Very professional. Had no problems with communication”
Zuberi L.
Google Review
“He was there every time I called and got me a great settlement.”

I was in a car accident and looking for a professional, caring attorney.I was fortunate to find Mr. Fuchs, who helped me through the whole process. He was there every time I called and got me a great settlement.

Joan K.
Google Review
“My settlement was fast, fair and professionally handled.”

Had a car accident and needed an advocate to communicate my concerns through my insurance provider. The law office of David Fuchs, was efficient and thorough. My settlement was fast, fair and professionally handled. Would highly recommend giving this office a call if you need legal assistance.

Willie M.
Google Review
“A+++++ recommended.”

I want to thank the office of David Fuch’s. A+++++ recommended.

J. Hernandez
Google Review
“I could not have asked for a better team by my side.”

They were very helpful. I could not have asked for a better team by my side.

S. Rodriguez
Google Review
“They got me my settlement pretty quickly and worked hard on my case for me.”

I was in an accident mid last year and Mr. Fuchs handled my case and his case manager[s] Yessi and Jessica were very informative as to the process. They got me my settlement pretty quickly and worked hard on my case for me. Mr. Fuchs was extremely knowledgeable and informed me of everything that would happen in my case. I will recommend this firm to my family and friends and i will be using their services in future if need be.

Pastor D.
Google Review