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How Paying a Traffic Ticket can Ruin your Automobile Accident Case

It is common for a police officer to issue tickets to one or more drivers after an automobile accident. For instance, if two vehicles collide in an intersection controlled by a four-way stop, the officer may issue a ticket to one of the drivers for failure to yield. That driver may not agree with the ticket he has received, but he does not have the time or money to hire a lawyer to fight the ticket. So, the driver pays the ticket and moves on with his life.

 

A few months later, the driver gets a knock at the door. The sheriff is there to serve  him with court papers. It looks as though the other driver from the accident a few months back is suing him for injuries.  He is upset---he didn't deserve the traffic ticket, and he certainly doesn't deserve to get sued by the other driver whom he feels was the one who failed to yield!  So, he turns the lawsuit over to his insurance company, who hires a lawyer to defend him.  

 

The driver's lawyer listens to his story and thinks she can adequately defend the driver......until she learns that the driver PAID THE TRAFFIC TICKET FOR FAILURE TO YIELD!  The lawyer is upset---"why did you just pay the ticket?!"  The driver doesn't get why his lawyers is so unhappy that he was responsible and paid his traffic ticket......

 

The lawyer isn't happy because in Missouri, if you merely pay a traffic ticket, you are also pleading guilty to the offense on the ticket.  In this case, by paying his ticket, the driver is pleading guilty for failing to yield at the intersection.  That guilty plea can be used against him in court.  Sure, the driver can still get on the stand and say that he was not the one who failed to yield at the intersection, but you can bet that the other driver's lawyer is going to pull out the traffic court file and show the jury that the driver has already admitted that he failed to yield at the intersection in a court of law. This is a very tough hurdle for any attorney to overcome.

 

If you are involved in an automobile accident and you are issued a traffic ticket, DO NOT JUST PAY THE TICKET. Consult an attorney before doing anything.  If you are not injured, you may be able to find a reasonably-priced traffic attorney who can try to get the ticket amended so that if you ever get sued, you can better defend yourself.  If you are injured, oftentimes a personal injury attorney is happy to help you take care of the traffic ticket while also handling your injury case.   

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