Pam: This is Fighting for What’s Right with personal injury attorney Barry Doyle.
So Barry, one of the things I always thought was whoever got the ticket would be considered to be at fault for the accident. Is that true?
Barry: That’s one of those things that it seems like it should be true, but it actually isn’t. What the law in Illinois is is that if somebody gets a ticket after an accident, the fact that somebody got a ticket doesn’t come into evidence unless the person pleads guilty to the charges in the ticket. So if you receive a ticket after an accident and you plead not guilty to the ticket, even if you’re convicted in a traffic court hearing, the fact that you got a ticket doesn’t come into evidence because you didn’t plead guilty to the charges in the ticket. This isn’t to say that the fact that somebody got a ticket isn’t considered by the insurance company in considering the issue of fault, but it doesn’t come into play in a later civil case. It’s certainly helpful if the other party got a traffic ticket, but it’s certainly not dispositive of the issues in the case.
Pam: So what do you recommend to people who have gotten a traffic ticket after an accident?
Barry: First off, if you’re facing major charges after a traffic accident it may very well be worthwhile getting a consultation with a traffic ticket lawyer to address whatever the charges, those are. Past that, the one thing that you want to be very careful to do is plead not guilty to the charges in the ticket, because that insures that the fact that you got a ticket will never come into evidence if there’s ever a trial relating to your accident. A lot of people fear the consequences of getting convicted in traffic court, that they’re going to have to pay a bigger fine. It really isn’t that big of a difference between what happens if you plead guilty versus not guilty of the most part in traffic court. But the consequences of having that traffic ticket come into evidence in a civil case really can be kind of devastating. You want to avoid having that happen by making sure that you plead not guilty to the charges in traffic court.
And the other thing that you have to keep in mind is that the only thing that really matters are charges that relate to the actual cause of the accident itself. So something that’s not a cause of the accident, like a seatbelt charge, you shouldn’t worry so much about that.
Pam: Wait, what about seat belts?
Barry: One of the weird quirks in the law in Illinois is that the use or non-use of a seatbelt technically isn’t admissible in a civil case relating to a car accident. The thought behind that is that it’s not considered contributory negligence on the part of an accident victim to not be wearing a seatbelt, because that didn’t actually cause the collision. So it doesn’t get to come into evidence at all. So the fact that somebody isn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident really never comes into evidence in a later civil trial.
Pam: So what do you recommend to people when the other driver gets the ticket?
Barry: So if you’re the one who’s involved in the accident and the other driver gets the ticket, the thing that I recommend to my clients is that when there is a traffic court hearing that you show up. Because if you don’t show up for the traffic court hearing, the ticket will almost always be dismissed. If you’re there the proceedings go ahead on the traffic ticket and there’s always a reasonable chance that that other driver’s going to pleading guilty to the charges in the ticket, which allows the fact that they got a ticket to come into evidence in a later civil case. And that can really be a pretty powerful point of leverage in trying to get your case resolved on favorable terms.
Pam: This is Fighting for What’s Right with personal injury attorney Barry Doyle. For more videos like this one log onto our website at fightingforwhatsright.com, or subscribe to our YouTube channel.