Frequently, the defendant in a personal injury case receives a ticket for causing the accident. Sometimes, the defendant is found not guilty, and the question arises, what effect does a not guilty verdict in traffic court have on the personal injury case? The answer is, that is has little effect on your case unless the defendant pled guilty in traffic court. The traffic court is a criminal court, and carries a burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. Personal injury cases are tried in civil court, where the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, which means, more likely than not. Because of this different burden of proof, the results in the traffic court are inadmissible in the personal injury case, with two exceptions.
If the defendant pleads guilty in traffic court, it is an admission of liability in the personal injury case, and the defendant will be found negligent. The only issue then is the amount of damages. So traffic court is extremely useful if the defendant pleads guilty. Even if the defendant pleads not guilty in traffic court, we can still use his statements against him. Traffic court is very helpful to us, but it does not control your case.
Your case is controlled by the facts, as developed by your attorneys and the attorneys for the defendant, and not by what happened in traffic court. Traffic court is a different court, with a different standard of proof, with different lawyers. We, and not the prosecutor, will prove your case.
Feel free to call us with any questions. We talk to people about their cases every day. Our phone number is (804) 719-1900.
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