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The Role Of A Bad Driving Record In An Auto Accident Lawsuit

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Each year some 6.75 million car crashes occur on public roadways. These accidents result in anywhere from 20 to 50 million people sustaining serious injuries.

Anyone who has been injured in an auto accident has the right to pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver responsible for causing the crash. Attorneys use a wide range of evidence to help establish fault and prove that financial compensation should be awarded to the injured party.

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that the driving history of each driver involved in a crash would help a jury determine if negligence or recklessness caused the accident you were involved in. Unfortunately, having a prior driving history isn't always admissible in court.

The Prior Bad Acts Rule

All civil lawsuits must adhere to rules set forth by the court. One of these rules is referred to as the Prior Bad Acts rule. This rule states that a defendant's previous actions, or "bad acts", cannot be used against them in a current civil case.

A poor driving record is considered a prior bad act by the court. Just because an individual has a history of speeding or failing to yield doesn't necessarily mean that speed or running a stop sign contributed to your accident.

Your attorney will probably obtain the defendant's driving record during discovery to get a better idea of their driving patterns, but the record itself cannot be submitted as evidence on your behalf.

Exceptions to the Prior Bad Acts Rule

As is the case with many rules, there are exceptions to the Prior Bad Acts rule. A judge will allow a poor driving record to be submitted into evidence under the following three conditions:

1. The Defendant Brings Up Their Driving Record in Court

Each of the parties involved in an auto accident will likely be called upon to testify in court or provide a deposition statement as part of a civil injury lawsuit.

Should the defendant open up about their driving record during this testimony, a driving record can be submitted as evidence to disprove said testimony.

If the defendant testifies that they are a good driver or has never had a moving violation but the person's driving record tells a different story, your attorney will be able to submit the record into evidence as a way of rebutting the false testimony.

2. The Defendant Was Driving a Work Vehicle 

A lot of businesses rely on delivery vehicles to bring goods and services to their customers. If you were injured in an auto accident with a driver operating a work vehicle at the time of the collision, you may be able to name the driver's employer as a defendant.

Employers have an obligation to hire and retain safe, responsible drivers.

If the defendant's driving record shows that they have multiple violations before being hired, you could sue the employer for negligent hiring. If the defendant's record became tarnished after their hire date, the employer may be on the hook for negligent retention.

3. The Defendant Has a Felony Driving Conviction

Felony and dishonest misdemeanor convictions are typically admissible in any court case. These types of convictions speak to a person's character, and they can help a jury to see that the defendant in a civil personal injury case is not credible.

Felony driving convictions (like a DUI or vehicular manslaughter) will appear on an individual's driving record.

Your attorney will be able to use the driving record showing all felony convictions as evidence on your behalf while trying your case in court. For more info, contact an auto accident attorney near you.