Many clients involved in car accidents in Atlanta have come to me explaining that even though the officer ticketed them, the crash was the other driver’s fault and they wonder what they should do with the traffic ticket from the City of Atlanta. If the injury is serious, I will take a hard look at the evidence to determine if the officer just got it wrong, and sometimes they do.
For people that have been injured in a car crash and the probability of a subsequent lawsuit, the outcome of the traffic ticket can be critical. People that sustain serious injuries in Atlanta should be careful with how they handle the citation they are given.
It surprises many people that the investigating police officer’s decision on who is to blame is not dispositive in the civil case. In fact, the officer is usually not allowed to testify in the subsequent civil suit for money damages from the injury unless the officer actually witnessed the crash or unless they took collision reconstruction courses at the Georgia Police Training Facility in Forsyth. Here is the general break down of the import of certain pleas in the traffic court.
If you plead guilty on your ticket then that will count as an admission that you were at fault but it does not totally prevent you from arguing otherwise. See Miller v. Crumbley 249 Ga.App. 403, 405, 548 S.E.2d 657, 659 (Ga.App.,2001)
If you don’t show up for court and pay your ticket by mail, the prevailing case law seems to indicate that the failure to show up counts as an admission, although the box you check off on the ticket (guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere) may change the interpretation of the act. See Cannon v. Street 220 Ga.App. 212, 214, 469 S.E.2d 343, 345 (Ga.App.,1996)
If you show up and plead not guilty but pay the ticket before coming back to court, then it will not be an admission. See Waszczak v. City of Warner Robins
Entering a plea of Nolo Contendere also will not count as an admission of any negligence or wrongdoing in the subsequent civil case.
Being found guilty by the Court will be inadmissible in the civil case as it is not an admission and has no relevance.
If you have a serious injury from a crash, it is a good idea to talk to a car accident lawyer before the traffic citation is resolved.