Traffic Citations and Their Role in Georgia Car Accident Injury Cases

Key Points:

  • In Atlanta a traffic ticket or citation is an accusation but not a finding that one driver or another is at fault.
  • Whether a traffic ticket is admissible in a Georgia civil personal injury case usually depends on whether a driver pled guilty to the violation.
  • Under Georgia law, when a driver mails in a fine or pays the ticket without pleading nolo or not-guilty, this is a legal admission to the traffic charge.
  • When a driver makes a legal admission to a traffic violation, a Jury or Court in a civil car accident injury case may hear about the ticket.

Can Traffic Ticket Outcomes Impact the Verdict in Atlanta Car Accident Injury Cases?

The issuance of a traffic ticket at a car accident scene is not only an enforcement measure but also helps establish a preliminary understanding of the events leading up to the collision. While it is important to note that traffic tickets are not definitive proof of fault or guilt, they can be used as a starting point for further investigation. In some cases, the ticket may eventually become a factor in determining liability or fault in a personal injury claim, depending on the specific circumstances and legal proceedings that follow.

When a Driver Pleads Guilty to a Car Accident Traffic Ticket

Under Georgia law, a traffic ticket is an accusation but it is not a finding that one driver or the other is at fault. Nor does the ticket itself prove guilt. But, in some circumstances, tickets can be both helpful and admissible in an injury case. For example, if a driver pays their ticket or mails the fine to the Court, this is considered a guilty plea, and can be used as an admission of fault in a personal injury car accident case.

When a Driver Contests a Car Accident Traffic Ticket

If a driver pleads not guilty to a traffic ticket, it generally cannot be used as direct evidence in a personal injury case. The traffic ticket itself is considered an allegation, not a definitive finding of fault or guilt.

Common Citations Handed Out After Atlanta and Georgia Car Accidents

Nearly every time that there is a car accident, someone broke a law – even it’s following too closely (tailgating), crossing the center line, failure to yield, or driving too fast for conditions. Other laws may also be broken. Here is a list of some frequent Georgia laws broken during, and often causing, car accidents:

  1. Acrobatic or Fancy Riding – O.C.G.A. 40-6-311. Motorcycles or vehicles trying to pull off stunts or tricks to get attention.
  2. Broken Windshield or Visor – O.C.G.A. 40-8-73. A broken windshield or visor can block a driver’s vision causing a car accident.
  3. Crossing Center Line or Median – O.C.G.A. 40-6-50. For head on collisions typically one of the drivers is responsible for this.
  4. Improper U‐TURN – O.C.G.A. 40-6-121. Illegal U-turns oftentimes cause accidents.
  5. Speeding – O.C.G.A. 40-6-181. How can we forget speeding? It’s common for someone to be speeding during a fatal accident.
  6. Defective Equipment – O.C.G.A. 40-8-7. Broken lights, or equipment can sometimes result in a traffic accident.
  7. Discharging Passengers on a Highway – O.C.G.A. 40-6-203. Otherwise known as stopping traffic to pick up or drop off passengers.
  8. Disregarding Railroad Crossing Barrier – O.C.G.A. 40-6-142. Cars that get hit by trains usually are accused of breaking this law.
  9. Following Too Closely – O.C.G.A. 40-6-49.  It is against the law to follow another car, truck or motorcycle at a distance making it difficult or impossible to stop.  This is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents.
  10. Impeding the Free Flow of Traffic – O.C.G.A. 40-6-184. Going far below the speed limit can cause an accident.
  11. Improper Backing – O.C.G.A. 40-6-240. Accidents happen all of the time with drivers going into reverse.
Four examples of Georgia Car Accident Laws

Determining Fault in an Accident Without Issued Tickets

Determining fault is not always easy, and a lack of citations can make it even more challenging. However, other factors can help determine who was at fault, such as how the accident occurred, the police report narrative, police body cam and patrol car camera recordings, witness testimony, and statements from both drivers. 

Are Traffic Tickets Given Out in Small or Minor Automobile Accidents?

Traffic tickets can be issued in minor or small automobile accidents if a police officer determines that a driver has violated traffic laws or regulations. It ultimately depends on the specific circumstances of the accident and the discretion of the responding officer. If an officer believes that a driver’s actions or failure to follow the rules of the road contributed to the accident, a ticket may be issued, regardless of the severity of the incident.

However, it is also possible that no traffic tickets are issued in minor accidents, especially if the officer deems is unable to form an opinion as to who was at-fault. In such cases, the involved parties may exchange insurance information and handle the matter through their respective insurance companies or attorneys.

Do Atlanta Police Officers Need to See a Car Accident Happen to Issue a Traffic Citation?

In Georgia, a police officer does not necessarily have to visually witness a car accident to issue a traffic ticket. Officers can issue tickets based on their investigation and the evidence gathered at the scene of the accident, including statements from witnesses, physical evidence, or any other relevant factors that indicate a traffic law has been violated.

It is important to note that the specific circumstances of each case can vary, and the decision to issue a traffic ticket ultimately depends on the officer’s assessment of the situation and the available evidence.

Is a police officer’s opinion admissible in a Car Accident Court Case?

When a police officer issues a traffic ticket for a car accident without having witnessed it, the ticket can be considered the officer’s un-official informed opinion of fault based on their investigation of the incident.

However, under Georgia’s rules of evidence, unless an officer witnessed the crash or moving violation, the police officer’s opinion about who is at fault is generally not admissible and is not dispositive as to fault or blame for a collision. In Court, the police officer can only testify about the investigation. For instance, the police officer can testify about what the witnesses said and about the evidence at the accident scene. The officer’s body cam and patrol car recordings can also be used as evidence, and may contain interviews with the drivers and witnesses. Police camera recordings or photographs and measurements may also show the positions of the vehicles and other on-scene evidence.

If a Car Accident Case Goes to Court, How Will the Jury View the Traffic Tickets?

This depends. In Georgia trials of civil injury cases the Jury or Judge decides who is at fault in causing the accident. It is not automatic that the Jury will even hear that one or more tickets were issued. Whether the ticket is admissible may depend on whether there was a guilty plea to the violation.

What if the other driver was ticketed, but is now blaming you?

Has this happened to you? The other driver in your accident gets the ticket, but then that driver or the insurance company tries to blame you for causing the accident! If this has happened to you, the first thing you should try to find out is what happened to the ticket.

For instance, you should find out if the other driver mailed in, or appeared in court and paid the fine. In the State of Georgia if the at-fault driver pays the ticket and does not enter a not-guilty plea or a nolo plea, this is considered an admission of guilt to the traffic charge. This means that you can use the fact that the other driver was ticketed and admitted to the traffic violation as evidence that the other driver broke the law and caused your car, truck or motorcycle accident. A guilty plea does not mean you win automatically, but it in most cases it greatly increases your odds.

What happens to a ticket if I do not show up in traffic court?

If you were the person ticketed and you fail to show up in traffic court, a judge can issue a bench warrant for you and your driver’s license is likely to be suspended.  Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 375-3-3-.12.  If you mail in the fine, this should excuse your appearance in Court, but will be considered a legal admission of guilt to the traffic charge.

If another driver was ticketed and you are a witness, even if you were the driver of another car in the wreck, the Court might dismiss the ticket.  This is much more likely to happen if you are the only witness to the wreck, other than the at-fault driver.  You might get lucky and another witness shows up to testify against the cited driver, but do not count on this.   If the ticket is dismissed, it is unlikely that the fact that another driver was cited can be used to help win your injury case.

Traffic tickets can mean the difference between winning and losing an Atlanta Car Accident Case.

Thanks to the Millar Law Firm for giving my school a great begging to the school year. They donated some much needed pencils to my students. Thank you all so much!

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