Can a traffic ticket help you win your car accident lawsuit?
Getting into a car accident can be a traumatic experience, especially when you’re left to deal with injuries, property damage, and lowered quality of life. It’s understandably frustrating when the at-fault driver walks away with just a minor traffic ticket for reckless driving. However, you may have the upper hand if you decide to file an injury claim to recover damages. Believe it or not, that traffic citation can actually help your Virginia personal injury lawsuit.
When Police Issue a Traffic Ticket at the Scene
When a car accident results in injuries or extensive property damage, the police are typically called to the scene. They assess the situation, gather eyewitness accounts, and often issue a traffic citation to the at-fault driver. Law enforcement may ticket a driver for various reasons that point to negligence in causing the crash, such as:
- Tailgating at an unsafe distance
- Speeding over the posted limit
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Failing to maintain awareness of surroundings
- Distracted driving due to cell phone use, eating, etc.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
In most cases, the careless driver just pays the fine or pleads guilty in traffic court to quickly resolve the case and move on with their lives. Little do they know, that guilty plea can come back to haunt them in a civil injury lawsuit!
Paying a Ticket is an Admission of Guilt
Under Virginia law statute § 8.01-418, a guilty plea in a related criminal case is admissible as evidence in a civil personal injury lawsuit stemming from the same incident. In plain terms, pleading guilty or paying a traffic fine related to the accident can be used against the at-fault driver to show they were negligent. Legally, paying that ticket or pleading guilty constitutes an admission of fault.
The law is crystal clear on this – a guilty plea in the traffic case works in your favor in the injury claim. So if you sue the other driver for your injuries, you can present their guilty plea or ticket payment to the court as proof that they caused the collision. Judges allow this without question, as it strengthens the argument that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s damages.
The only exception is a “no contest” plea. However, traffic courts rarely accept no-contest pleas. For most standard traffic violations in Virginia, paying the ticket does equate to admitting you committed the offense.
Virginia’s Statute of Limitations for Injury Lawsuits
Under state law, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is within two years of the accident date. For wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the victim passed away. Consulting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident is crucial to preserve your rights.
Leverage the Traffic Citation to Get Maximum Compensation
The traffic citation can be invaluable in proving liability and securing a fair settlement when used alongside other evidence like medical records and witness statements. Of course, every case has unique details, so work closely with an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney to build the strongest argument based on the available facts and evidence.
For example, the skilled car accident lawyers at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp obtained a $125,000 settlement for a client who suffered neck and back strains along with a fractured wrist due to a car accident.
Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case. We’re here to help you get the maximum compensation you deserve!