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Most people don’t realize that by pleading guilty to a traffic ticket you may prejudice more than just a monetary fine or your driver’s license. If you are sued in a future New Jersey Superior Court matter, your conviction can be used against you.
What kind of violation are we talking about?
This is focused on motor vehicle accidents resulting in a traffic ticket. The accident can be property damage or personal injury, either can result in a future lawsuit. The tickets can be any moving violation that could be seen as the cause of the accident. For example, careless driving (N.J.S. 39:4-97), reckless driving (39:4-96), driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (N.J.S. 39:4-50), unsafe operation (39:4-97.2), driving while using a cell phone, or improper lane change (N.J.S. 39:4-88). The driver goes to court and pleads guilty to the traffic matter and pays his fine.
Why is Pleading Guilty a Problem?
Most every civil lawsuit turns on two questions. First who is responsible or liable for the injury? Second, what is the monetary damage they are liable for? A conviction for some traffic tickets seen as causing a motor vehicle accident can be used to prove the first prong. In other words, by pleading guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol you may be also be found responsible for causing the motor vehicle accident that resulted in a serious injury to another. After all, you admitted it in court, didn’t you?
So What Can I Do?
The solution is a Motion for Civil Reservations. This is where you ask that the court to prevent the use of that plea (or anything that you as the driver said in entering your plea) in any other civil matter.
This doesn’t insulate you from being found responsible for causing the car accident. Just because you got a civil reservation isn’t going to change what the police report or witnesses will testify to in a subsequent law suit. At least, you are giving yourself a fighting chance. The person who sues you will have to prove his or her case. Without a civil reservation, you are forfeiting the question of liability before the case even started.
I have situations where the injured party hired an attorney who appeared in municipal court and objected to my client getting a civil reservation. If you were insured on the date of the accident, and have a good traffic defense attorney, your civil reservation will likely be granted.
If you have received a traffic ticket in Monmouth or Ocean County, especially one that arose out of an accident, you can:
- Download our free traffic ticket book “Why Pleading Guilty to your New Jersey Traffic Ticket is NOT an option by clicking on the title,”
- Download our DUI book, “Arrested for Drunk Driving? Learn How to Beat the Odds,”
- On the menu on the right you will find our immigration books including a tool to help you figure out if you qualify for legal status,
- You contact me through this site or the chat feature; or
- You can call our knowledgeable staff at 888-695-6169