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March 15th, 2018

Philadelphia Car Accident & Injury Lawsuits – Are Citations Needed to Prove Fault?

In a Philadelphia car accident injury lawsuit, the injured plaintiff is required to prove the following:

  1. fault or negligence on the part of the other driver,
  2. that the accident caused damages, and
  3. the nature and the extent of the damages (injuries, financial losses and pain and suffering).

Are Citations Needed to Prove Fault in a Philadelphia Car Accident Case? No.

One issue that may come up when litigating auto injury cases in Philadelphia is whether the at-fault driver received a citation, and if so, what happened? Did the citation get dismissed? Did the at-fault driver plead guilty or no contest?

Related: Philadelphia Intersection & Left Turn Car Accidents – A Look at Pennsylvania Vehicle Code Laws

In terms of proving liability, it can certainly help if the other driver received a citation and pleaded guilty to it. However, a conviction on a citation isn’t admissible under Pennsylvania rules of evidence.  See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6142. Pleas in vehicle matters:

(a) General rule.–A plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or a payment of the fine and costs prescribed after any such plea, in any summary proceeding made by any person charged with a violation of Title 75 (relating to vehicles) shall not be admissible as evidence in any civil matter arising out of the same violation or under the same facts or circumstances. (emphasis added)

This means that while it is certainly relevant for purposes of investigating a case, a conviction on a traffic citation isn’t going to help at trial. For example, a driver in Philadelphia runs a red light and hits a pedestrian at the intersection. The responding police officer gives the driver a citation. The pedestrian sues the driver. The fact that the driver received a citation and later pleaded guilty isn’t admissible in court to prove that the driver ran a red light.

It is still important to depose the at-fault driver/defendant and ask about any citations received after the accident and the outcome of the citations. When presenting a claim for settlement to the insurance agent handling the claim for the at-fault driver, it’s helpful to present any evidence of citations, even though they won’t be admissible at trial.

Proving Fault Without the Citation

Very often, fault is proved without any evidence relating to the at-fault driver’s citation. Here are some of the other types of evidence that can prove fault:

  • testimony of passengers, other drivers or eyewitnesses about how the accident happened,
  • the responding officer’s testimony about his or her observations when investigating the accident,
  • the at-fault driver’s statements made at the scene of the accident,
  • accident scene pictures, and
  • video footage, if available.

Even though fault might seem clear in some cases, it’s still important to conduct a thorough investigation. In some cases, a driver who caused an accident may seem to accept responsibility right after the accident, then later changes their mind and states that the accident occurred due to some other reason. Using the example above, let’s say the driver ran the red light, but later says the light was yellow, not red. In this instance, pictures of the accident scene, testimony of all parties, the responding police officer and any eyewitnesses will be key in proving fault.

For more information, visit the Philadelphia Car Accident Law page. For a free consultation, call our Philadelphia car accident injury lawyers at (866) 641-0806.

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