What happens if someone is issued a traffic ticket from a car accident?


I was involved in a car accident and the other driver was issued a ticket by the police.  What effect does that have on my claim against the other driver for personal injuries I sustained in  the accident.

Roberts Answer:  

Most of the time, and police officer will not issue a citation at a car accident.  This is mainly due to the fact that the officer did not actually witness the traffic violation that led to the accident.  However, if the officer believes that the physical evidence and eye-witnesses are strong enough, the office will issue a citation to the at-fault driver for some traffic violation.  The effect this citation will have on your injury claim will depend on how the ticket is finally handled.

A traffic ticket is considered a criminal offense.  Of course, it is not as serious as murder or armed robbery.  But for all legal purposes, it is considered a criminal offense since it is the State bringing the charges and seeking to punish the offender.  On the other hand, a personal injury case is a civil claim since the dispute is between private citizens for recovery of money damages.

Since the burden of proof is much higher in a criminal case (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) than in a civil case (“preponderance of the evidence”), then a conviction in a criminal case is admissible and conclusive in a civil case arising out of the same event.  For instance, let’s say you are involved in an intersection collision with another vehicle that ran a red light.  Based upon the evidence at the scene and the witnesses, the police officer issues a traffic ticket to the other driver for running the red light.  If the driver is convicted for the ticket, either by pleading guilty or being found guilty after a trial, then the driver is automatically deemed legally responsible for causing the accident in the civil case.

However, the result of the ticket must be a guilty finding either by a plea or by a trial.  A plea of “nolo contendre/no contest” or “not guilty” is not admissible in the civil case unless there is a subsequent finding of guilt.  Most tickets are disposed of by a plea of “no contest,” a short duration of probation, and/or defensive driving.  Rarely do tickets go all the way to a finding of guilt.

Likewise, if someone is injured in an auto accident and the other driver is facing a ticket, then it might be worth the injured party’s time and effort to show up on the appearance date of the other driver’s ticket and ask the prosecutor not to accept a plea of “no contest.”  Although the prosecutor is not bound by your request, he/she might be willing to push for a guilty plea especially if there are serious personal injuries and the eye-witnesses are willing to cooperate.


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14 thoughts on “What happens if someone is issued a traffic ticket from a car accident?”

  1. Question: I was involved in a car wreck on August 27th. the accident was my fault. However, I requested a change of court date because my mom had to have eye surgery on the same day. she is blind and immobile. the request was granted. i got the letter with the new court date in the mail but it also had that i was being criminally charged. why? I just don’t understand. I’m terrified because I feel like i’m being punished for a car accident. and if i get arrested, who’s gonna care for my mom? if I loose my license I won’t be able to drive the 45 minutes to my job which is our main source of income. please help. do i plead guilty, not guilty or no contest? honestly, i just want to pay this fine, keep my license so i can drive to my job to pay my rent, and walk out of there. that’s all i want.

    please keep in mind that i just got my license back in January of this year for non payment of taxes on the vehicle. i worked very hard and got into more debt just to pay the taxes which were over $200. and i’ve had some tickets prior to the tax issue. could this be the reason? please let me know something ASAP. I need some piece of mind.

    1. It probably is just a traffic citation. Usually, those are taken care of with a fine or even a deferred adjudication. You may be able to keep it off your record. If you feel like it is necessary, you can hire an attorney that handles traffic tickets.

  2. Question: I was in an accident in which the other driver was issued a ticket on the scene. She pleaded not guilty and the ticket is going to trial. If she is found not guilty, would she be able to take the case to civil court in an attempt to sue me for any damages? Insurance found her 100% liable.

    1. If she is found guilty, or otherwise pleads guilty, then the charges are conclusively established in a civil trial for the accident. If she is found not guilty, then that finding is irrelevant and inadmissible in a civil trial. So, if she is found not guilty then that has no effect on her responsibility for the accident to you in a civil case. She can still be found responsible for the accident in the civil case even if she is found not guilty for the ticket.

      Whether she will sue you in the civil case is really a different question. If she is found not guilty, then she might feel “vindicated” enough to think she is not responsible for the accident in a civil case. This would be an erroneous conclusion. But, whether she chooses to sue you or not is really her decision.

  3. Question: I was involved in an accident in which I was driving a friend’s car. I was found at fault in the police report for running a red light through an intersection, but I was not cited at the scene of the accident. No one was injured in the accident. My question is since I was found at fault for running the red light, will I be issued a ticket? If so, is it automatically reported to car insurance? Also, what are usually the differences/consequences of pleading guilty, no contest, or not guilty? Is there any way for me to take this off my record if I am found guilty? Thank you in advance!

    1. If you were not issued a ticket at the scene, then it is highly unlikely that you will be issued one later. However, the accident and insurance claim is already reported and visible to the insurance companies. Just because your were not issued a ticket does not mean the accident will not effect you insurance record. Unfortunately, once a claim is made, the incident is on your claim record for insurance purposes. There is no way to remove it that I am aware of.

  4. I was involved in minor accident, when the officer pulled into my lane as he was trying to getting on to my lane, from another accident site which was blocking the other lanes. I was in the lane where the traffic was moving (left most lane) as I was approaching the close to area of the other accident (at a low speed) I noticed the officer’s vehicle approach my lane, at which point I slowed down ready to stop. However he slowed down and appeared to be stopping and I believe stopped momentarily, so at that point thinking he was stopping I accelerated slowly … he seemed to have the same impression thinking I was going to stop which ended up in the minor accident. It appears both of us misunderstood the other person resulting in the accident. I did not get a ticket at the time of accident or later, or requested to appear in court or pay any fines. I only received a accident report later in the mail, however the reason was stated as “Failed to yield right of way to emergency vehicle”. Is this considered a citation or traffic ticket?


    1. The officer’s opinion of the factors contributing to the accident is not a citation. There is a section in the police report where citations are actually referenced. It is about half way down on the second page. If there was a citation or ticket issued, it would be listed in that section along with a citation number.

  5. My brother was involved in an accident and was found at fault but was also cited by the officer claiming he did not stop/yield to the oncoming traffic. The street setup made it difficult and parked cars obscured his view, he did make a full stop and from what he could see he proceeded to make a left turn. At this point there was an oncoming vehicle which t-boned him. The officer arrived and at the end wrote him a citation also stated that “You know I have to write you up, right?” He was found at fault but the officer also stated failure to yield or not stopping at stop sign. Can he or should he dispute the citation? he did stop at the stop sign before proceeding to make the turn, also the officer was not present to see it. He accepts that insurance finds him at fault but does not feel he should have been cited since he was cautious, made a full stop but the parked vehicles obscured his view.

  6. My daughter was involved in an accident. No one hurt. Officer gave my Daughter a ticket for improper lane change because she had pulled her car forward and moved over to avoid another accident . Traffic was very heavy. Officer said since he did not see the accident and her car was first, she was given the ticket . I was in the car and so was my 23 year old granddaughter. Officer would not accept any word from us since we were in my Daughters car, he felt we were unreliable 🙁 My Daughter is pleading not guilty ( the other driver had actually side swiped us}. Any chance we can get ticket dropped

    1. She may plead not guilty. They may offer her probation and a small fine and it will be dropped. But, do not, under any circumstances plead guilty. If she does, then the criminal charge may be used against her in the car accident case. Also, if she goes to trial for the ticket and is found guilty, then the conviction may also be used in the car accident case. If she gets an offer for probation or deferred adjudication, just make sure she is pleading “no contest” or “nolo contendre.” A plea of “not guilty” or “no contest” is not admissible in the car accident case.

  7. I was involved in an accident where a car took a right turn with out giving signal and myself and the car in front of me had to apply sudden break. I hit the car in front of me. there was no visible damage to the car in front of me, they were not even ready to wait till the police arrives.My car was damaged.No one was injured in this. I might be at fault here but i was looking to switch lane at that particular instance that might have caused it.I was issue a ticket for driving too fast for condition or failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

    Shall i plead guilty or not guilty? Do i need to hire a Lawer if i plan to plead not guilty?if i pay the fine online does that mean i plead guilty by default?


  8. I was cited for speeding to fast for the conditions after an accident involving no other vehicle. no officer was at the scene when i crashed and i never admitted to speeding, infact i firmly said i was not speeding. If i contest the ticket there is no way for them to prove that i was indeed speeding and my ticket should get dropped or greatly reduced is my line of thinking. Any thoughts?

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