Like much of the rest of the country, California is a fault state when it comes to car accidents. Because of this, proving fault is a critical component of compensation in a personal injury claim.
In the aftermath of a crash, it is common for police officers to issue traffic citations to one or both drivers if there was clear evidence of a violation. Does getting a ticket mean you were at fault for the crash? And would it prevent you from seeking compensation? Thankfully, the answer to both questions is: Not necessarily.
Overcoming the ‘presumption of negligence’
Being ticketed after a crash doesn’t automatically make you at fault, but it does initially tip the scales in favor of the other driver – especially if you were ticketed and they weren’t. Under California’s Evidence Code section 669, a person is presumed to be at fault for a traffic accident if they violated the California vehicle code in some way that was connected to the crash. The presumption is even stronger if you violated a traffic law that was designed to help prevent car accidents (such as speeding or making an illegal U-turn).
If you were ticketed and the other driver wasn’t, they may use the citation as evidence that you were at fault. The burden of proof is initially on you to demonstrate that you were ticketed in error or that your traffic violation did not cause or contribute to the accident.
Contesting and clearing up the ticket quickly is a wise move, if it is possible to do so. Getting it off your record takes away the presumption of negligence and makes it easier to allege fault against the other driver.
The other driver may be primarily responsible, even if you share fault
Many traffic accidents involve some fault on both sides, but it is rarely equally shared. You may have violated the vehicle code, but that matters less if the other driver’s conduct was the primary and proximate cause of the crash.
California recognizes a legal principle known as comparative negligence. That means you can still seek damages from the other driver even if you were partially at fault. The damages you can recover would simply be reduced by the amount of fault assigned to you.
Let’s say that because of your traffic violation, you were assigned 20 percent of the fault for the crash, while the other driver was assigned the rest. If you win or settle your case, you could recover 80 percent of the total damages you were seeking.
An experienced attorney can make a huge difference
A traffic ticket alone isn’t proof of negligence, but it might make it harder to recover the full amount of compensation you deserve. That’s why it is especially important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney like those at our firm. To learn more about how we can help you, reach out to us for a free initial consultation.