Does a ticket prove who was at fault in an accident?

Traffic tickets given to a driver in an auto accident don’t automatically prove that the ticketed driver is at fault. But it may be offered as evidence to help decide if the ticket driver was careless or driving dangerously.

Car Accidents and Texas Negligence Law

In Texas, someone who behaves carelessly may be responsible for injuries that behavior causes. This is known as negligence. It is the legal basis for most Texas car accident lawsuits. The basic question is: was the driver being careful enough?

  • Standard of Care: The Court determines a level of how careful a reasonable driver would be. This is known as the standard of care. If you are not as careful as the Court determines was reasonable, you may be found negligent.
  • Negligence Per Se: When someone violates a safety law, that person’s behavior is assumed by courts to be careless (not meeting the standard of care.) If you were convicted of violating a traffic law, it may lead courts to assume you were negligent.

A Traffic Citation Can Be Evidence of Negligence in Texas

If you were in an auto collision in Texas and the other driver was given a ticket, the ticket might be evidence you can offer in court.

  • Hearsay:  Not all evidence can be used in a court case. Texas’ Rules of Evidence cover what evidence can and can’t be used in court. Under Texas Rule of Evidence 801, people usually cannot be a witness in court to prove something they didn’t see and hear themselves. This kind of evidence is known as hearsay. It is usually not allowed in court. Many statements made to police and written down in police reports are hearsay. Many cannot be used in an Texas auto accident lawsuit.
  • Guilty Plea In Open Court: However, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule. For example, if the ticketed driver shows up in traffic or criminal court and “knowingly and voluntarily pleads guilty” to the traffic violation, the ticket is not hearsay. Then the ticket may be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit over the accident caused by the illegal driving.