A New York motor vehicle accident case I recently handled illustrates how traffic court and New York motor vehicle injury law intersect. Here’s the scenario: A car strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Pedestrian is hurt. The cop, however, faults the pedestrian, and tickets her for leaving the curb without looking when the car was already too close. Normally the pedestrian has the right of way in a crosswalk, but not when she leaves the curb when the car to close to avoid her (New York Vehicle & Traffic Law 1151).
It is surprising that the cop tickets the pedestrian because she was actually quite a ways out into the crosswalk when she was struck, and the car driver admitted she had been distracted looking to the side of the road at another pedestrian just before she struck the pedestrian in the crosswalk.
The pedestrian has a court date on the crosswalk violation. If convicted of the violation, she will get a fine of, at most, $270. If you were the injured pedestrian’s New York personal injury lawyer, what would you advise her to do? Three options: (1) go to traffic court and tell her story so that she doesn’t get convicted of the traffic violation; or (2) bargain with the D.A. to plead guilty to some lesser charge to reduce the fine; or (3) just don’t show up to court and let them convict her.
I’ll tell you what I would advise the pedestrian: Number 3. Why? The problem with number 1 is that whatever she says in Court can later be used against her in the personal injury trial. She might say something inadvertently on the stand that somehow hurts her personal injury case. But won’t her traffic violation conviction be used against her in the personal injury trial? No. A conviction to a traffic violation is not admissible in a subsequent personal injury trial – the jury will never hear about it.
What about number 2? No way! Any plea of guilty to anything can be used against her in the personal injury case as an “admission” of fault.
Since the maximum fine is only $270, she should just take the hit, avoid testifying, and avoid pleading guilty to anything. Her New York personal injury case against the driver will come out unscathed — nothing has harmed it. And that’s worth the $270 fine!
(Important: Read Part II of this blog here!)
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.