Yes, if you received traffic citations after an accident you can still file a claim. The traffic citation may affect the strength of the claim depending on the type of citation issued by the police officer. Car accident claims revolve around the concept of negligence, which is broadly defined as failing to use reasonable care to prevent harm to others.
If the traffic citation is evidence you were negligent in the accident, this will probably harm the claim. Insurance adjusters may use the citation to increase your proportion of fault in the accident and decrease its settlement offer. It will even bar you from collecting damages if you are more than half at fault for the accident.
No matter the citation, it's important for plaintiffs to let their attorneys know the police issued them traffic tickets after the accident. An attorney cannot prepare to address the citation when negotiating a settlement if the client doesn't inform him of it.
What traffic citations can be issued after the accident?
Police may issue traffic citations after an accident based on the evidence and testimony they find at the crash scene.
Some examples of traffic citations handed out at the scene of the accident:
- speeding tickets;
- red light tickets;
- right-of-way infractions; and
- failure to use a seat belt.
More minor citations, like not having working taillights, may be issued after the accident as well.
How does modified comparative fault affect the claim?
Iowa follows modified comparative fault. Comparative fault means that in a legal claim a party can collect damages minus her proportion of fault for the accident. As noted above, insurance adjusters may refer to a traffic citation to increase a claimant’s proportion of fault.
For example, a claimant was 25 percent at fault for accident because a taillight was out and the other driver is 75 percent at fault for following too closely and rear-ending when braking. If the claimant suffered $10,000 in damages, he or she can only collect $7,500 instead of the full $10,000.
The "modified" aspect of the theory refers to a limit Iowa law places on the claimant’s proportion of fault. Claimants must be 50 percent at fault or less in order to collect any damages in a personal injury case. If claimant is more than 50 percent at fault, he or she is barred from collecting any damages.
How do I prove my case in court?
In addition to traffic citations, the rest of the accident report can help establish fault for the accident. Accident reports include things like:
- weather conditions;
- vehicle position;
- eyewitness accounts of the accident; and
- driver sobriety reports.
Photographs, medical records and witness testimony may also help a plaintiff prove fault as well as document the extent of the damages. A car accident attorney can help accident victims gather this evidence and make a convincing case.
Walker, Billingsley & Bair helps Des Moines accident victims develop their claims and address any traffic citations or indications of comparative fault. Contact our office at 888-435-9886 to set up a consultation and get started.