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Mike Myers
Mike Myers
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Traffic Citations and Civil Liability–Strangers in the Night

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A lot of people involved in accidents believe that the issuance of a ticket is determinative in terms of liability. For better or worse, it isn’t.

In fact, in Washington a traffic citation cannot be introduced as evidence in a personal injury case. The thinking behind this rule makes some sense: many people find it easier to pay citations (which they don’t believe they’ve committed) than contesting them. Without the merits actually being decided at the traffic court level, the citation and its ultimate resolution don’t necessarily have substantive meaning.

Similarly, many people believe that just because the driver has violated the traffic ordinance, he or she is 100 percent at fault for an accident. This too is not the case.

Even though an ordinance or rule is violated, it’s felt there can still be comparative fault on the part of the person who has not violated the rule.

For instance, even thought the injured person has not been issued a citation, it can be determined that the injured person could have done more to avoid the accident (for instance, paying closer attention and potentially being able to avoid the accident had he or she been paying closer attention).

Initially these rules may seem counterintuitive. But given additional thought, they make sense in most situations/applications.