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Plead now and it may cost you later
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Plead now and it may cost you later

When someone is charged with an offence after a car accident, they usually don't think about the effect that it might have on an injury claim. They often think that a Highway Traffic Act or criminal conviction is separate from the injury lawsuit. In most cases, they are wrong.

Many people think that what really matters is whether your insurance company designates you as having been at fault for the car accident. However, your insurance company will go by something called "The Fault Determination Rules" when deciding whether you were at fault for the accident. Those are relatively simple rules that were designed to help insurance companies quickly and cheaply determine who should be listed as the at-fault driver. The fault determination rules are usually not relevant to a lawsuit for injuries.

In most cases, a highway traffic act or criminal plea or conviction can come back to haunt you. If you were injured in the accident, a plea or conviction can affect your right to sue and, in some limited cases, it can even affect your right to claim certain accident benefits. For instance, if you were a left turning driver who was convicted of careless driving or left turn not in safety, you would probably have a lot of trouble later trying to say that you were not driving carelessly or that you did make the turn in safety

A guilty plea can be treated as evidence of guilt in a later injury lawsuit proceeding (there are some exceptions). A plea bargain can be treated in much the same way as a guilty plea, although there are also some exceptions. A conviction is generally treated as conclusive proof both that the convicted party committed the offence and for any findings of fact on which the conviction is based (you cant later say "I didnt do x" when you already plead guilty to doing x"). The Courts use this general rule because they do not want to re-litigate issues that have already been dealt with (they want to decide issues once, although there are limited exceptions).

What this means is that you should treat the possibility of a conviction or plea bargain seriously when you have been injured or when you have injured someone else (or, indeed, if you were injured). The conviction or plea could determine whether you are at fault for the accident and how the insurance companies view the case. I have represented clients who were involved in accidents and plead guilty to a lesser charge, not because they agreed with the charge, but because they didn't understand the effect of the conviction. They figured that it was just easier or cheaper to plead guilty. If these clients could have went back in time, they certainly would not have agreed to the plea. Those pleas affected their ability to sue for their injuries in the car accident and their ability to get full compensation from their accident benefits carrier.

Transcripts (written documents that record what you said) from a criminal or Highway Traffic Act trial can be introduced in a civil injury trial. That means that what you say at a trial may be looked at very carefully during the civil injury lawsuit process. This applies both to persons who are charged and to persons who are called to trial as witnesses against the driver who was charged.

For all of these reasons, if you have been injured in an accident, it's important to obtain early and effective advice from an experienced accident and injury lawyer. I provide free, no obligation, consultations and do not pay unless you win fee structures. Please fee free to call me at 416-727-6182 in Toronto, or 905-409-2438 in Durham (Oshawa/Whitby/Ajax). You can also reach me through our website at WWW.LAW123.CA

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