Picture this: You’re driving down the busiest street in the neighborhood, both eyes on the road. Out of nowhere, another vehicle rear-ends you. You file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You sustained a wrist fracture from the jolt. You’re claiming $50,000 in damages for medical bills. The insurance company denies your claim, citing that the accident was your fault, at least partially. They only want to pay you $30,000. Negotiations have failed, so you file a personal injury lawsuit.
You presume that it’s clear you did nothing wrong. Any judge or jury should be able to see that. Then, the insurance company begins pulling your driving records: a ticket for distracted driving, here. A moving violation for running a stop sign, there. A speeding ticket you forgot about. Suddenly, you start looking like a bad driver. Can they do that? Can your driving record affect your personal injury claim? Will it make a difference to the court? Sadly, the answers are yes, yes, and maybe.
If Someone Else Caused Your Injuries, You Are Entitled to Compensation
First, every driver should know that if they are injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, they are entitled to compensation. Period. The existence of a poor driving record or blemishes here and there legally has no bearing on your personal injury claim. So, if you are concerned about your driving record and want to file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party, you can. But you should do so with the help of a car accident lawyer. Why? Well, that brings us to our next point.
Insurance Companies Will Try to Use Your Driving Record Against You
While your past driving record can’t stop you from filing a claim, it may stop you from receiving the compensation you deserve when used in the underhanded tactics of an insurance company. For example, an insurance company may try to counter your claim with the argument that you were at fault for the car accident so that they can deny your financial compensation.
If blaming you outright isn’t a viable option, they may allege that you were at least partially at fault so that they can undervalue your claim and pay you less money. Every state has negligence laws (in New York, it’s CVP § 1411) which may bar you from receiving a percentage of your compensation or any compensation at all if you are even partially to blame. In order to support these claims, an insurance company might use your driving history to paint you as a routinely negligent driver.
Insurance Companies May Claim Your Injuries Are Pre-Existing
If your driving record indicates that you were involved in a previous accident, the insurer may try to allege that your current injuries are actually pre-existing injuries from that prior car crash. If successful, they could keep you from receiving any money as pre-existing conditions are generally not compensable in personal injury claims.
The exception is if your most recent auto collision aggravated your pre-existing injuries. An attorney would help you gather the proper evidence to show that the car crash worsened your pre-existing conditions.
A defendant or insurance company can claim you had pre-existing injuries, but they cannot argue that your injuries from the car accident wouldn’t have been so bad if you didn’t already have a pre-existing condition. They must take you as you are. This is called the eggshell skull doctrine.
When Is It Helpful to Have Driving Records Introduced in Court?
Drivers with a clean or mostly spotless record can benefit from introducing their driving history in a car accident lawsuit. Generally, it would be your lawyer who uses it in court as it may serve as a counter to claims of your negligence, demonstrating that you are a careful driver.
You may also benefit from the introduction of the other driver’s record. For example, if the at-fault driver has a history of car accidents or moving violations, your car accident attorney may be able to use it to strengthen your case by demonstrating a pattern of negligence.
If you hire a lawyer to help with your personal injury claim, be sure to inform them of any prior accidents or injuries. That way, they can be prepared should the insurance company or negligent party bring up your driving record. Remember, a personal injury lawyer is your advocate. They can’t effectively fight for you if they don’t have all the information. Any details you provide are kept confidential.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer for Help
Regardless of how a driving record is used or who uses it in a car accident injury case, juries can be swayed by it. If you’re concerned about how your driving record may affect your injury claim, a car accident lawyer at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP can advise you on your rights, options, and potential outcomes. Your injuries entitle you to compensation, and we can help you pursue it. Call (516) 358-6900 today for legal guidance through a free consultation.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information and may not be applicable in your jurisdiction.