If you were involved in a car accident, here in Virginia, find out whether the defendant was issued a ticket for the accident. While it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win your case, it will be helpful. And here’s why:
Virginia applies Contributory Negligence. Under this law, if the defendant is 99% at fault for your accident, and you are just 1% at fault, you lose. (Read more about contributory negligence here). It’s important that you can establish that you didn’t have any fault for your accident, at all.
When the defendant is charged, gives you an indication that the law enforcement investigation concluded that the defendant was the reason for the accident.
How can the defendant’s ticket be used in your case?
Generally, traffic tickets aren’t admissible in your personal injury case. Therefore, at trial, you won’t be able to simply say, “the cops charged the defendant for this case.”
However, if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to the ticket then that admission may be admissible in your personal injury case. See Virginia Code Section 8.01-418. Also, the defendant’s prepayment of the ticket is considered an admission as well. See Virginia Code Section.
But the charge that the defendant pleads guilty to matters.
Many times, a defendant will be charged due to the accident only to obtain a favorable plea agreement at court. This occurs when the defendant showing up to traffic court, has the charge amended to a non-moving violation (such has having defective equipment), and pleads guilty to that amended charge.
If the defendant obtains a favorable plea agreement, the fact that the defendant was charged and plead guilty to an amended charge will likely be inadmissible in your car accident claim. Indeed the court in your accident case will likely find that an admission to an offense that says nothing about the defendant’s driving behavior is irrelevant.
What if the defendant’s traffic ticket is not admssible, or he or she wasn’t even charged?
You don’t automatically lose. In fact, most traffic accident cases result in no one being charged at all. And there is no requirement that the defendant be charged for you to win your personal injury case. But, as discussed above, it is helfpul.
Is it possible for you to lose even if the defendant pleads guilty, and it’s admissible in your case?
Because of contributory negligence, it is possible that the defendant is guilty of the traffic offense, and you still lose. That’s because being only 1% at fault is such a low threshold. Therefore, it is very useful when the defendant pleads guilty. But, if there’s any question that you may have contributed to your accident, you should reach out to an attorney to discuss your options.
Still have questions?
Make sure to check out our Personal Injury & Criminal Defense Practice Pages where we’ve answered many other questions you likely have. James Abrenio is a Fairfax-Based Personal Injury & Criminal Defense attorney who practices throughout Northern Virginia. You can learn more about James Abrenio, some of our Prior Results, and Read Our Reviews. Make sure to contact us at Ph. 703-570-4180 for your Free Consultation.