If You Get a Traffic Ticket, Will That Affect Your Accident Injury Claim?
Although receiving a traffic citation does not necessarily affect your personal injury claim, the citation may open up situations that can have an impact on your claim, or indirectly affect the outcome of your claim. Here’s what you need to know about traffic tickets and how they might affect your personal injury claim.
Anything said in traffic court is on the record
Anything said in court may be considered an ‘admission’ that can be used in another case, including a personal injury lawsuit. Anything said by either party to the accident in a traffic hearing may subsequently be used as evidence against their opponent in a civil lawsuit. So, for example, if you admit fault in any way during your traffic citation hearing, the other party to the accident may be able to use this as corroborating evidence against you during your personal injury lawsuit against them. This could affect amount of compensation that you may collect.
Even statements that are not intended as admissions of guilt may be construed by a judge or jury in a civil lawsuit as such. For example, if you apologize for your part in the accident, even if you do not believe you caused the accident, the opposing party may successfully argue that this apology is equivalent to an admission of fault in a car accident. As such, it is extremely important that you are very careful with your phrasing during a traffic citation hearing—in fact, ideally you should seek legal advice or representation during this hearing if you are planning to file a personal injury lawsuit regarding the accident in the future. A car accident lawyer will be able to provide you with precise wording that fulfills your legal obligations in a citation hearing, while protecting your future interests when filing a personal injury claim.
In some cases, if you are not issued a traffic ticket for the accident, but the other party to the accident is issued a ticket, you may be subpoenaed to testify in their traffic hearing. If subpoenaed, you are legally required to testify in court, and your statements as a witness in a traffic hearing are still considered on the record, even if you are not the defendant to the case. Again, if you are planning to file a personal injury claim, you should consult with a car accident attorney before making any statements on the record.
A guilty plea may be used against you in a civil lawsuit
Most California traffic citations allow you to enter one of three pleas: ‘Guilty,’ which means that you agree with the charges that have been filed against you as written and agree to abide by the prescribed penalties; ‘Not guilty,’ which means that you disagree with the charges and wish to contest them in court; and ‘No contest,’ which means that you disagree with the charges but will accept the penalties assessed in order to conclude the matter. As a general rule, if you do not wish to contest the charges or go to court, you should opt to plead ‘No contest’ rather than ‘Guilty.’ A guilty plea puts you on the record as accepting fault for the ticket and may potentially be used against you in a personal injury lawsuit.
In some cases, a prosecutor may offer a plea deal, for example in a case involving multiple citations they may agree to drop one or more charges in exchange for your pleading ‘Guilty’ on another. Although this offer may be attractive because it significantly decreases your traffic citation penalties, a ‘Guilty’ plea is tantamount to an admission of fault and may be used to contest any personal injury claim you might file in relation to the accident. Never admit guilt to a prosecutor or law enforcement officer before the terms of the deal are finalized and formalized. If a prosecutor approaches you with a plea deal, be sure to consult with an attorney to explore all of your options before accepting or rejecting any deal.
When in doubt, consult an attorney
If you are at all considering filing an accident injury lawsuit, seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney. This is especially the case if a traffic citation hearing is involved. At The Dominguez Firm, our car accident attorneys have assisted thousands of injured clients around the greater Los Angeles area to protect their legal rights and recover millions of dollars in car accident compensation. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, call our offices today for a free consultation about your case at 800-818-1818.