How do I best handle my Georgia traffic citation?

One client query that tends to come up with personal injury cases is, “Should I pay my Georgia traffic ticket, even though the other party was at fault? How should I proceed?” This is not an unreasonable question, as the disposition of a traffic ticket could affect the outcome of any lawsuits pending or that might arise.

First of all, do not just ignore the ticket.

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It surprises many people that the responding officer’s assessment of who is at fault does not have bearing on a civil case. As a matter of fact, the officer isn’t typically allowed to testify in a civil suit involving monetary damage from an injury unless:

a) the officer was on-site and actually witnessed the wreck itself or

b) the officer has taken collision reconstruction courses at the Georgia Police Training Facility in Forsyth, Georgia.

If there are personal injuries involved (especially if they are serious), and you have hired counsel to represent you, your attorney will carefully examine the evidence to see if the officer’s on-site determination is wrong; sometimes that’s the case.

Here’s a general breakdown how various responses to your ticket and the bearing they have on your case:

  • If you plead guilty on the ticket, then that counts as an admission that you were at fault, but it doesn’t fully prevent you from arguing that you weren’t when you get to court.
  • If you pay your ticket by mail and choose not to show up for court, current prevailing case law seems to point toward the conclusion that failure to show up is counted as an admission of fault, but the box you tick on the ticket (either guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendre) may change the court’s interpretation of your absence.
  • If you show up and plead not guilty but pay the ticket before coming back to court then it is not counted as an admission of fault.
  • By the same token, entering a plea of nolo contendre (“no contest”) won’t count as an admission of negligence or wrongdoing in related civil cases.
  • If you are found guilty by the court with regard to the ticket, that’s inadmissible in the civil case since it’s not an admission and has no relevance. Surprising, huh?

If you are injured as the result of a Georgia car crash, it’s always a good idea to contact an experienced Atlanta accident and injury attorney before proceeding into legal matters uninformed.  Hopefully, this post has helped!

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