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Injured and Cited in the Same Car Crash? Do You Still Have a Personal Injury Claim?

February 7, 2020 By John Torgenson

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 Arizona injury attorneys, 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 taillights 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 you receive a citation does not mean that you are fully responsible for causing the car crash. It follows that 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?

NO. 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 too 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 not working at the time of the collision. 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 taillights 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 collision. 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) 726-0747.

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John Torgenson

John Torgenson is a highly experienced personal injury lawyer with over 20 years of practice in Arizona. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Notre Dame. John has a proven track record of securing substantial verdicts and settlements, including an $8.25 million recovery for a gunshot injury victim. His expertise has earned him AVVO ratings and recognition as a Super Lawyer.

John is also a sought-after lecturer on personal injury law, sharing his extensive knowledge with peers and aspiring attorneys. Beyond his legal practice, John is an avid golfer and actively supports organizations like the Military Assistance Mission, Arizona School for the Arts, Page Balloon Regatta, University of Arizona Foundation, Junior Achievement of Arizona, and the Tim Huff Pro Bono Golf Classic.

Passionate about advocating for injury victims, John dedicates his career to battling insurance companies and corporate interests, ensuring that the rights of those who are hurt are vigorously defended.