By: Matthew Tievsky
Officers of the Metropolitan Police Department do not issue a ticket for
every auto accident. In the cases where they do, however, it raises an
interesting question: If one driver sues another, and the police issued
a ticket against one of the drivers, can that ticket be used as evidence
in the lawsuit?
In the first place, the ticket itself cannot be used against the driver
who received it. The police officer did not see the accident, and cannot
testify to what happened or what he believes happened. For that same reason,
the ticket itself is not admissible at trial – it only reflects
the police officer’s belief as to what happened in the accident.
Under D.C. law, it is for the jury to decide a lawsuit based on its own
conclusions, not the police’s conclusions.
On the other hand, if the recipient of the ticket goes to court and pleads
guilty, then that driver has admitted to violating the traffic laws. That
admission can be used against that driver in a lawsuit.
However, most people don’t go to court for a ticket – they
simply pay the fine. Can that be used against the recipient of the ticket?
In D.C., unlike some states, the answer is “no.” The District’s
high court has ruled that because a person may pay a ticket out of convenience
without actually believing that they did anything wrong, the fact that
a driver paid a ticket is not significant evidence of guilt and should
not be used against the driver in a lawsuit.
If you have been injured in an
auto accident and want to know the effect of the police’s investigation of your
case, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman,
Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. for a free consultation.