Most car accidents occur because at least one of the drivers involved was doing something unsafe like speeding, looking at a phone, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving while drowsy. Some of these unsafe practices, like speeding, can be traffic violations on their own. Others, like drowsy driving, might technically be legal, but they may lead to traffic violations like running a red light.
When traffic violations lead to a personal injury, it can make the case easier to prove, but it is helpful to have an experienced Rockland County personal injury lawyer who understands the implications of a criminal case on a civil lawsuit.
What you need to prove in a personal injury lawsuit
In New York and New Jersey, if you are injured in a car accident, you can only file a personal injury lawsuit if your injuries are deemed serious under the state’s law. Otherwise, you are limited to the compensation available under your no-fault policy.
If your injuries do qualify for a civil lawsuit, you need to prove that the other driver was legally to blame. In legal terms, you need to show that they were negligent. You will need to be able to prove that:
- The other driver had a duty to do something or to refrain from doing something;
- The driver breached that duty;
- The driver’s breach caused the accident; and
- The accident caused your injuries.
If you cannot offer evidence to support each of these elements, the defendant can have the case dismissed, and you cannot recover compensation.
Effect of a traffic citation on a car accident lawsuit
If the other driver received a ticket, it can be used to show that he breached a duty, and that doing so caused the accident. In other words, it may show that the officer at the scene found him to be negligent.
Some types of traffic violations that often lead to accidents include:
- Driving under the influence
- Distracted driving
- Failure to yield
- Failure to maintain distance
Some things to keep in mind include:
- Civil cases have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases. In theory, if the driver was found guilty of a crime, demonstrating civil liability for the same action should be easier.
- Even if the officer at the scene found the other driver at fault, there may be other evidence that a jury may find more persuasive, so you cannot rely on the ticket alone.
- If the ticket is not logically related to the cause of the accident, for example, if the other driver was cited for not wearing a seat belt, it may not help your case.
- If the negligent driver was a government employee on the job at the time of the accident, you may have a very short window to file a claim that could be put in jeopardy if you wait for the outcome of a criminal case.
An experienced attorney will navigate through these and other potential issues that could threaten your claim. Call today to discuss your case for free with a Bergen County car accident lawyer at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman.