Here is the scenario: You are lawfully passing through an intersection when you are struck by another vehicle that ran the red light. Police respond to the scene and investigate the accident. After talking to witnesses, the police issue the other driver a citation for running the red light. Because you were injured in the wreck, you hire a lawyer (hopefully us) to file a lawsuit for your damages. As part of that litigation, you want to know if the citation is admissible to help prove your case.
So what is the answer? It depends. Sorry, we know folks hate those kind of answers but here is why we say that. A traffic citation is sort of like being arrested – it is not proof of anything unless there is a finding of guilt. So if the other driver’s traffic citation is tried and he either pleads guilty or is found guilty of running the red light, then the finding or conviction may be used in the civil case. But what if there is not a guilty plea or guilty finding?
If the other driver simply pleads no contest or nolo contendere to the traffic citation and pays the fine, then the traffic citation is inadmissible. This is because there was not an actual finding of guilt. And unless the police officer actually witnessed the accident, then he has no personal knowledge of the fact that the other driver ran the red light. Instead, the police officer’s knowledge is derived solely from hearsay – the witness statements he obtained as part of the investigation.
If the crash was serious, most insurance companies will advise the at-fault driver to simply plead no contest and pay the ticket so that there is not a finding of guilt. Of course, all is not lost. Under these circumstances, you can still prove the driver ran the red light. It is just a little harder because you will have to locate the witnesses and pay to have them subpoenaed to court to testify that they saw the other driver run the red light and crash into your vehicle. There are rules about who can be subpoenaed to court, when subpoenas have to be issued, how much the witness has to be compensated for mileage and time spent at court, etc. But, our office deals with these issues day in and day out and will handle all of that for you.
If you have been injured in a car accident, let us help you. Visit our website for more information on our fees, what to expect from the litigation process, how to select a personal injury lawyer, what to do following an accident, how long you have to pursue your rights and more information. Then, review our credentials, our client testimonials and our successes and give us a call anytime. In Nashville, phone us at 615-472-4800. In Murfreesboro, call 615-867-9900. For anywhere else in the State, call toll-free at 866-812-8787. Or, if you prefer, you can contact us online. We have recovered well over $140 million dollars for our clients and we would like to help you too.