If the driver that struck you was cited or arrest, that is a good thing. But it certainly isn't the end of your fight.
When police decide that the other driver was at fault, that's good news for your case. In a perfect world, all you'd have to do is submit the police report to the other driver's insurance company along with your medical bills, and that'd be that. But police reports and on-the-scene determinations are far from the end of the road for your potential legal claims against the driver. You're going to need an experienced attorney to make sure that the facts are straight in your car accident case.
Questions answered on this page:
- What if the other driver was arrested or cited in my accident?
- What relation do the citations or arrests have to my case?
- Should I still get an attorney?
The criminal and civil justice systems are separate.
When police determine that a motorist drove unsafely on the road, the driver could receive anything from a warning to a trip to jail. Police have the authority to charge people with crimes and/or citations. This is not an adjudication of guilt, but the matter is then transferred (or "referred") to one of three types of prosecutors:
- City attorney: If the driver received a citation for something minor---speeding, improper lane change---then the local city prosecutors will handle the case. These attorneys handle hundreds of cases a week and are usually more administrators than courtroom lawyers.
- County misdemeanor prosecutors: If the driver who hit you is charged with something more serious like reckless driving or a "low level" DWI (where there's no serious injury and his blood-alcohol level was under .15), then he'll be charged with a misdemeanor. These are crimes, but not the more egregious kind.
- County felony prosecutors: The most serious kinds of driving infractions, like a DWI that caused someone serious harm or death, are called "felonies." These crimes are handled by the most experienced prosecutors and can result in many years of prison.
You'll note that all of the above are handled by the state, not private attorneys. In essence, prosecutors represent all of the citizens of Texas, not just victims. This is why you've heard criminal cases styled The State of Texas v. John Smith. The state may charge convicted drivers fines, but all that money goes to the state, not victims.
But personal injury and wrongful death cases for compensation occur in the civil justice system. You hire your own lawyer who pursues the defendant for the money you need to pay your bills, for your lost income, and for your pain and suffering. The state and its prosecutors have absolutely zero involvement with your civil case. Further, even a guilty plea or conviction doesn't mean that the civil process is "short-circuited." Your attorney has to prove your case in civil court.
What citations, arrests, and convictions can do for your civil case.
While the criminal and civil cases happen separately, the testimony, documents, and results of the criminal process can provide significant evidence for your civil trial. When properly "proved up" according to the rules of evidence, a jury can learn of the following examples of evidence:
- The defendant pled guilty or "no contest."
- If the defendant testified, all of his statements.
- The police report.
- If the defendant had been drinking prior to the incident, his blood-alcohol level
A thorough attorney will file a Freedom Of Information Act request to obtain the prosecutor's entire file to learn all possible witnesses, statements, and pieces of evidence that he may want to introduce at trial. This process is sometimes tedious, but can mean the difference between a win and loss for your car accident claim.
It should be noted that there are circumstances in which a guilty plea or conviction effectively ends the "liability" aspect of your case. For example, if the drunk driver who hit you and caused your injuries later pleaded guilty to intoxication assault for the incident, very few defense attorneys will think it's wise to then push any arguments of fault especially hard. However, defense attorneys always try to attack the extent of your damages. That's why, even where it's plain as day that the other driver is at fault, you need an attorney with the experience and know-how to get you all the money you deserve.
Civil justice at Grossman Law Offices.
Our lawyers at Grossman Law Offices are proud to assist injured people to assert their rights in the civil justice system. Grossman Law Offices has a distinguished track record of fighting for the rights of the injured. If you have been the victim of a careless driver or an uncompromising insurance company, call Grossman Law Offices today, toll-free, at (855) 326-0000.
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