Being involved in an auto accident is never fun. It is shocking, traumatic, emotionally devastating and if any type of car accident insurance claim is involved, just the beginning of a long process.
One question potential clients often ask car accident attorneys is whether their driving history can negatively impact their car insurance claim. They also wonder if traffic tickets issued at the scene, apart from their general driving history, will help or hurt their case.
Here is some information for those looking for a car accident lawyer in Houston regarding how traffic tickets can affect a claim in a vehicular accident.
Prior Driving History
In most jurisdictions, the driving history of someone involved in a car accident is generally not admissible, unless certain factors are present. Those factors can help opposing counsel or an insurance company establish a pattern of behavior while driving that could mitigate or adversely impact any vehicular accident claims. The following questions and associated comments illustrate how a driving history could influence the outcome of an insurance claim.
Is the auto accident a rare event or has the individual had other accidents that would indicate a pattern of reckless driving habits or behavior?
Proving this, even if the other party is found to be at fault, can impact how an insurance claim is processed.
Were the other traffic tickets issued for behavior that could lead to a traffic accident or even cause an accident?
These type of tickets could include those tickets for excessive speed, reckless driving, operating under the influence, negligence, etc. Each can contribute to a negative outcome regarding a car accident claim.
Can the driving history show prior motive, a pattern of activity, scheme or plan or intent?
Driving history can be used in determining certain aspects of a claim. Examples of this include the showing of:
- A history of tickets for reckless driving or negligence.
- The filing of numerous accident insurance claims.
- Issuance of tickets for other accidents or found to be at fault in other accidents.
- Committing or suspected of committing fraud.
For example, if an individual has a history of road-rage, questions can be asked about the validity of finding the other party at fault. Additionally, if the individual filing the claim has a history of suspect “accidents,” an insurance company can raise issues regarding a claim’s validity.
Does a prior driving history pertain to a material fact or finding of the accident investigation?
If a driver involved in an accident has had traffic tickets that are 20 years old and even if they were for reckless driving, and that driver has had a spotless record ever since, then their driving history cannot be introduced as a mitigating factor. However, if they received a ticket for reckless driving the day before the accident, then that more recent ticket likely is admissible evidence.
Depending on the answers to those questions, a person’s driving record can help, hurt or have no impact at all on an insurance company’s decision regarding the claim. At the very least, a driver with a history of reckless driving or negligence will have their claim more closely scrutinized, especially if the fault of the accident is questionable. This is because if an insurance company can show that the person filing the claim was likely negligent, then they have a chance of succeeding in rejecting or reducing the amount of any payout. Conversely, if the driver has a spotless history then an insurance company can use the first person’s good driving record to bolster their position that the other party’s insurance company is responsible for the claim.
Traffic Tickets at the Scene
It might seem obvious that any finding of fault or traffic tickets that are issued at the scene of an accident will influence a car accident insurance claim. That is not always the case and not always as clear-cut as many would think.
If you or the other involved driver are issued a citation (or both of you are) and fault is allocated, an insurance company can and will use those findings to help prove its lack of liability. The company’s tactic will be to show that one driver or the other caused the accident or was likely to have caused the accident and thus, the company’s financial liability is limited.
The insurance company will use the ticket or tickets to show:
- The driver filing the claim is not entitled to what they think,
- The driver filing the claim took an action that voided their policy and thus the company is liable for nothing,
- The other driver is at fault and thus their company is liable, or,
- Both parties contributed to the accident and thus the liability of the insurance company is limited and shared,
All four of these outcomes serve one purpose: To reduce what the insurance company will eventually be compelled to pay. If the insurance company can prove any one of those four things, it can force settlement talks or a decision in court that is favorable to its overall objective.
Some Final Thoughts
Any insurance company involved in a car accident case, whether they insured you or the other party, is not the friend of anyone involved in the process. Insurance companies exist to make money and will use whatever they can find to justify reducing or avoiding a payout.
That is why your driving history or traffic tickets can affect your insurance claim.
Because insurance companies exist for one reason, even if its representatives assert otherwise, the company will do all it can to limit or end its liability. This includes undermining your claim if it helps them reduce the cost to the company, which puts anything that mitigates your claim on the table.
Understanding this can help you figure out if your traffic tickets will be a problem and a strategy for dealing with them.
Another important factor is that most insurance companies are not looking to avoid paying out a claim altogether, particularly if it is obvious the individual insured by the company is liable for the accident. What they are looking for, though, is a reason to reduce the settlement amount as much as possible.
If you are involved in an auto accident and are wondering if your traffic tickets will influence any insurance claim, call a car accident lawyer in Houston today, call Walker Texas Lawyer and get a free consultation. At the very least, it will give you an idea of what you will be facing with your insurance company or the insurance company of the other party.