Prove that you paid
Jeff McConnell and James Mennella
Traffic accidents are no fun for anyone and are particularly troublesome for Class A drivers. In this edition of Road Law, we will share questions we recently received from CDL holders and the answers we provided to them after they’d been involved in an alleged traffic accident. As always, we hope the questions and the answers below will be helpful to you.
Q: I got a ticket for “improper lane change” in West Virginia when a four-wheeler in back of me was really the one at fault. I tried to explain to the officer that after I signaled to change lanes and checked my mirrors, the four-wheeler just sped up and hit the left side of my trailer. The officer gave me a ticket anyway and said I could go to court and talk to the judge about what happened. What should I do?
A: First, let’s talk about the accident. Whenever you’re involved in an accident and receive a traffic ticket, your case splits into two pieces. So let’s say that you’re holding one of these pieces in your left hand and the other in your right. The piece in your left hand is the accident report that the officer made.
This accident report will be submitted to the appropriate state agency in the state where the accident occurred, which usually results in the word “accident” on the driving records (regardless of fault), and having the word “ accident” on a permanent driver record is a substantial penalty for any Class A driver.
Second, the other piece of your case that you’re holding in your right hand is the traffic ticket for “improper lane change.” This is the piece of your case that goes to a particular court for processing. If you simply pay this particular ticket, you’ll be convicted of your charge, which unfortunately is a “serious” violation, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. It could result in a disqualification of your CDL. So you don’t want to simply pay this particular ticket, and you’ll want to go to court on it to try to have it dismissed or amended.
When you go to court on this particular ticket, the municipal prosecutor (municipal court) or the district attorney (district or county court) will ask you if the property damages for the other party in the accident have been paid. We would hope you can answer “yes” and provide proof that you, your company or your liability insurance carrier has in fact paid the other parties’ damages. Proof that the alleged property damages for the other party have been paid will, in almost all accident cases, be required before the court will be willing to dismiss or amend your original traffic ticket. Bottom line – if you’re involved in a traffic accident, you’ll want to work closely with your company or liability adjustor and help them in any way you can so that you’ll have proof of payment for all alleged property damages for the other party(s) involved.
Q: I had a minor “fender-bender” with a car when I was driving my truck. I got a traffic ticket for “disobey a traffic control device,” and when I went to court the judge dismissed it. But I just ran a copy of my driver record, and the word “accident” is showing up.
If I had my ticket dismissed, why is the word “accident” still showing up on my driver record, and how do I have it taken off my record?
A: Remember, you went to court to fight your ticket. You didn’t go to court to fight the accident report. If you’re in an accident and the citing officer makes an accident report, the issue of an accident occurring is now a historical fact, and that’s why the word “accident” from this matter is appearing and will continue to appear on your driver record. Your ticket and your accident report are two totally separate problems for you, and usually the only one of these problems you’ll have a chance to fight is the ticket. LL
Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or contact us via RoadLaw.net.
This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone’s legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.