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Impact of Tickets on Your Personal Injury Case
You have just been in a car accident. You are hurting. You may have questions about repairs, medical bills for the rest of your life, lost wages, etc. There are a ton of questions going through your head about the ticket that the officer issued. Did the other person get the ticket? Does that mean that they can still claim that they didn’t cause the crash? Did you get the ticket, but you know the officer got it wrong? Here are some different scenarios that you may run into and how they may affect a personal injury case in Florida.
Remember as you read this that it does not include all the rules or exceptions, and every case is different, so please call us to see how your case will fall within these rules. We have attorneys who have spent entire careers diving into the details, rules, and exceptions and how they will apply to YOUR case.
What if the other person gets the ticket?
Typically, the police see the scene, see where the cars are left after the collision, talk to the drivers and witnesses, and give the ticket to the person who caused the crash. At the scene, you may have been handed a “driver’s exchange,” which is a short paper with the names of the people involved and their insurance, as well as the date and location of the crash. It is not the police report, however. Florida Statutes §316.066 requires that the real police report be done within ten days.
The complete police report will list all the drivers and passengers involved in the crash and information about who was in which car. Look a little lower, and you’ll see other items such as who was given a citation as well as names and addresses of witnesses. Usually, reports include a rough diagram of how the cars were situated when the crash happened and where the cars ended up.
Police use all these details in traffic court in cases where the ticketed drive tries to fight the ticket. The police officer that gave the ticket will have to defend his or her position if it’s challenged in traffic court.
That same information is also very useful for you and your lawyers. If you have been hurt in a crash and are making a claim for insurance money of the at-fault driver, the insurance adjusters will put a lot of weight on the officer’s conclusions in that report. Typically, the officer comes to the same conclusion that a jury will. Because of this, the officer’s conclusions are useful to the insurance adjuster when deciding their risk that you could win in court, and therefore how much of your damages they should pay. Most insurance adjusters for car accident claims presume the officer who responded to the scene of the crash will testify to what they saw, and the witnesses will not change their stories.
In Florida, who got the ticket is usually completely inadmissible in your actual lawsuit against the at-fault driver for their insurance money. Florida Statute §316.650 states, “Such citations shall not be admissible evidence in any trial, except when used as evidence of falsification, forgery, uttering, fraud, or perjury, or when used as physical evidence resulting from a forensic examination of the citation.”
What if the other driver fights the ticket and wins?
While getting the ticket is usually inadmissible in your case, when we hear that a defendant beat the ticket, it throws up a red flag. That often means that the driver has a witness or something that the police officer did not see and was able to cast doubt that they caused it. It almost always means they are going to dispute liability in our personal injury claim. Also, unlike the ticket, witnesses are usable in our lawsuits for personal injury cases. We often try to obtain recordings or transcripts of the traffic hearings to see who their witness was and how they beat the ticket so we know what kind of fight we are facing down the road.
What if they told the police officer they were at fault for causing the crash, but changed their story?
This is a pretty frustrating rule, but Florida Statute §316.066 specifically states that any statement made by the person involved in the crash to the responding officer may NOT be used as evidence in any civil trial. There are some exceptions, however, that a good lawyer will know about. For instance, this law only applies to the drivers, not passengers or witnesses. Also, things the officer observes are allowed, including results of breath, urine, and blood tests. Again, make sure you have a lawyer that specializes in personal injury trial law so you don’t miss out.
But what about what the report says? That can be used at my trial, right?
Unfortunately not. I would love to be able to get the police report into evidence at my trials — like citations and what defendants say to the police about why they hit my client — but these reports are also forbidden from use, according to Florida Statute §316.068.
What if the driver fights the ticket and loses?
While the conviction of the ticket is not admissible in Florida and almost all other 50 states, Florida differs in one area. If the defendant goes to a hearing on the ticket and pleads guilty, there may be a way to get the guilty plea in as evidence. To make a long story short, it is an exception to the hearsay rule because it is a statement against interest. A small minority of attorneys who practice personal injury law in Florida know this rule.
How do you get restitution?
If the person who caused the crash is found guilty of causing the crash, and you have outstanding medical bills, you may be asked by the prosecutor to provide them with those bills so that they can ask for a court order compelling the defendant to pay the bills. This is done through the traffic court and is called restitution. Restitution does not include pain and suffering for the past through the rest of your life or future medical bills or care, so you are still wise to get an attorney to help right away.
What happens if you got the ticket, but the officer was wrong?
This happens once in a while when police officers do not have time to talk to a valuable witness, or get surveillance videos from surrounding businesses. It is very frustrating when you are hurt and you are facing a ticket and what that means for any claim you may have had against the other persons’ insurance for your bills, pain, and lost wages.
Time is of the essence in these cases. The burden is on you, the injured person, to prove with a preponderance of evidence that the other driver was at fault. If the police officer was able to be convinced by what he saw at the scene, there is a good chance a jury will come to the same conclusion or at least feel that you haven’t proven the other driver was at fault.
Finding witnesses and videos right away is key. Fighting the ticket is often a good idea even if it can’t be used against you. Witnesses that the police officer did not talk to can help you out of the ticket and prove that you did not cause the wreck. Questions like who ran a red light or whether the other driver was speeding so you misjudged the amount of time you had to pull out can be proven with witnesses. Security videos have turned up valuable witnesses, too.
Videos of the crash are even better than witnesses. Beware, though — most recordings only last 15 to 30 days. You have to get them preserved right away, so do not wait to call a lawyer. We have invaluable tools for getting videos like subpoenas and Pure Bills of Discovery. We can often get the business owners to preserve the recordings and our engineers can usually determine from the video how fast each car was going. With that, we can prove that the other driver did indeed break a safety rule and cause the crash. Sometimes, even damage left at the scene or streetlight timing can even do the trick. Again, get a hold of us right away to see what can be done.
Contact us to know how your ticket will affect your personal injury case
When you have been involved in an automobile, motorcycle, semi-tractor trailer, pedestrian or bicycle collision, how the ticket is handled can be the difference between making a full recovery for your injuries, medical bills, pain and lost wages, or getting nothing. To get more information, call a dedicated personal injury attorney to help you get through this.
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