In almost all motor vehicle accidents, there is typically someone who is clearly at fault. The at-fault driver’s level of blame is usually expressed in the responding police officer’s report in the form of a statutory violation or traffic citation. It is true that there are no guarantees when it comes to asserting a personal injury claim. However, usually if you make a claim against another motorist who was cited following the car crash, the adverse driver’s insurance or attorney will likely not contest liability. The claim will likely be resolved following a negotiation on damages. As experienced personal injury lawyers, we have also encountered situations where our personal injury clients were cited following their motor vehicle accidents. Today, we are here to inform you that your traffic citations do not bar you from asserting a personal injury claim.
In Arizona, basic traffic citations can range from driving with broken tail lights to reckless driving. While traffic citations are viewed as a persuasive factor in determining the fault of the cited driver, they do not guarantee the overall outcome of a personal injury claim. More simply put, just because a driver was cited does not mean he or she is responsible for causing the car crash. Similarly, if a personal injury victim is cited for a crash, that does not mean he should not recover damages if someone else was at fault. Here are a few examples to help illustrate.
#1 The Irrelevant Citation
One evening, Polly was driving east towards an intersection at the same time David was stopped at a red light heading north. In a hurry and thinking that the coast was clear, David proceeded through the red light. Polly, driving under the speed limit, proceeded through the green light. To Polly’s shock, David’s car pulled into the intersection, and she had no time to stop and collided with David. Polly suffered personal injuries as a result. The responding officer cited David for running the red light. However, the officer also cited Polly, as she was driving without her driver’s license. Does this mean Polly cannot recover personal injury damages from David?
- Driving without a license has nothing to do with the car crash. While Polly may have to pay the fine associated with the citation, she is not personally responsible for her injuries.
#2 The Improper Citation
Peter was approaching a stop sign, and Danielle was following closely behind him. As Peter came to a stop, Danielle was not paying attention and slammed into the back of Peter’s vehicle. Danielle received a citation for following to closely and driving at a speed that was not prudent under the circumstances. However, the collision broke Peter’s brake lights, which Danielle later claims were broken before the accident. Based on Danielle’s statement, the officer cites Peter for driving with broken brake lights. Such a citation could be detrimental to Peter’s personal injury claim because the adverse party will claim that Danielle would have stopped if the tail lights had been working. What should Peter do?
The key for Peter is to find evidence that his brake lights were in fact working at the time of the crash. For one, he should find any witnesses who personally saw the motor vehicle accident. If they can testify that his brake lights were working, he can likely have the traffic citation expunged. Additionally, if his vehicle model provides notice of broken brake lights, he can use that evidence to show that he was never notified that they were broken before the crash. For traffic citations, the burden is on the police officer (prosecutor) to establish that the driver violated a traffic law. If Peter’s evidence can refute the police officer’s report and Danielle’s statement, Peter will be found not responsible for the citation. This would be extremely helpful for his personal injury claim against Danielle’s insurance company, who now cannot rely on Peter’s citation to shift blame.
As a general rule of thumb, if you are given a traffic citation following a car crash in which you are injured, do not assume all hope is lost and do not be afraid to fight it, particularly if you have the evidence and proof to establish that you are not guilty. Asserting a personal injury claim is much more straightforward when the opposing side cannot point the finger at you. The most important thing to remember is to never give up on your personal injury rights when they have been violated. We, at Torgenson Law, will not.
As Arizona Injury Attorneys, we, at Torgenson Law have seen and heard it all when it comes to personal injury claims. Fortunately, we have the education, skills, and experience to do what it takes to get you the recovery you deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, call us at (602) 759-0012.
As a reminder, our new office is located at 333 W. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85003.