There are approximately 6 million car accidents every year. But, when most people think about getting into an accident, they often don’t imagine themselves being at fault.
If you’re the one responsible for a collision, there’s a good chance you’ll receive a car accident citation when the police arrive. The next steps can be intimidating for those who have never been in this situation before.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.
Reasons For Getting a Citation
There are a handful of factors that could result in a law enforcement officer issuing you a citation, and they don’t all involve you striking another vehicle with your own.
These can include:
- Speeding at the time of the accident
- Red light violations
- Right-of-way violations
There are other infringements that could result in a citation, but these are some of the most common.
So, I Got a Citation… What Happens Now?
An officer will issue a traffic citation to a driver if there is enough evidence (either physical or eyewitness) to prove that one party was directly responsible for the incident.
If you do receive a citation, it’s seen as a criminal offense (even if your actions were unintentional). Incidents that involve negligence behind the wheel, such as texting and driving, are still criminal offenses.
As a result, you’ll have a handful of scenarios to take into account.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Since receiving a ticket after an accident proves that you’re the one who’s at fault, you won’t be able to make an insurance claim to cover the damage to your vehicle while also accusing the other driver of being responsible.
Similarly, you won’t have much chance of success if you file a personal injury lawsuit against the other party. In some cases, this might not be a big deal. This is especially true if there is only negligible damage to the people and vehicles involved.
In other cases, though, your citation could prove to be a significant obstacle between you and compensation.
You’ll Have to Appear in Court
As previously mentioned, it’s a criminal offense if you receive a traffic citation as the result of an accident. So, you’ll have to go to court as a result.
While it’s not impossible for the officer who issued you the ticket to fail to appear in court (which results in a case dismissal), you can’t assume things will go your way.
You need to take an appearance in traffic court as seriously as you would take a regular court case. Part of this preparation involves contacting a reputable traffic attorney to defend you in the courtroom.
You Can Contest The Ticket
While the goal of a law enforcement officer is to punish those who break the law, it’s impossible to perform this duty flawlessly. But, if you believe that the officer’s judgment doesn’t reflect the events that transpired, you have the opportunity to contest the ticket while you’re in court.
If you choose to go down this path, it’s important to understand that it will essentially be your version of the story versus the officer’s iteration of events.
Police officers will always have an advantage in court against ordinary citizens, so you’ll need to adequately prepare. This means you’ll need to:
- Compile any pictures of the scene of the accident that you have
- Gather eyewitness testimonies that you took from people at the scene who may have seen what happened
- Surveillance footage from businesses that may have recorded the incident
Put simply, the more evidence you have to support your assertion, the better your chances of things going in your favor.
Contesting a ticket is particularly important if you were injured in the accident and need to file an insurance claim for your medical bills.
What To Do If Both Drivers Are Cited
In rare circumstances, an officer will decide that both parties are to blame for the collision. For example, a driver who is speeding may collide with another while they’re making an illegal turn.
What this doesn’t mean, however, is that both drivers are equally to blame for the accident.
In the above scenario, it’s likely that going slightly over the speed limit is less dangerous than making an illegal U-turn across three lanes of traffic.
Since your citation will hurt your chances of filing a lawsuit or insurance claim, proving you weren’t the more liable party should be a top priority.
This situation is particularly murky, though, and often requires the assistance of a traffic attorney in order for you to come out on top.
What To Look For in An Attorney
Before you hire a legal professional, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider.
Your lawyer should be someone you’re comfortable communicating with. Accessibility is also an attribute to consider, as you’ll have a hard time giving your attorney information about your case if you can’t easily reach them.
Your attorney should also have a history of success in the courtroom. Taking a look at their past cases can save you a lot of time when trying to make your decision.
Handling a Car Accident Citation Can Seem Difficult
But it doesn’t have to be.
With the above information about dealing with a car accident citation in mind, you’ll be well on your way to taking care of it as quickly as possible.
Want to learn more about traffic tickets? This page has plenty of useful information.