Who is “at fault” for a Car Accident

Determining who is at fault for a car accident can help win your case.  When a car crash occurs in Las Vegas, the police may come to the scene of the accident.  Once they arrive, the police will take statements from each party.  If there are any witnesses, the officer will then obtain those statements as well.  In addition, the police will determine if weather or other traffic conditions played a part in the accident.  Following an officer’s investigation, the police will make a determination on the Traffic Accident Report of who is “at fault” for the accident.  People sometimes tend to believe that a traffic ticket settles the issue of who is actually at fault for the accident.  However, this is not always the case.  Additionally, how the ticket may be handled by another attorney in regards to possibly reducing the violation could have an impact at trial if the case proceeded in front of a jury. 

Officer’s Opinions on Fault Aren’t Admissible

In Nevada, a police officer’s opinions about who was at fault for the accident are generally not admissible at trial.  This is because the information obtained by the officer is usually gathered through witness statements, especially if the officer was not present when the accident occurred.  However, if the officer was present and could give a specific eye witness opinion of who caused the accident this would be different.  Conversely, officers usually don’t witness accidents.  As a result, an officer’s opinion is generally considered hearsay and excluded at trial.  While the officer’s decisions may not be admissible, a decent attorney can still possibly help the jury understand that one of the parties was ticketed by the officer as a result of the accident.

Three Potential Pleas

When a person who received a ticket goes to Court for that traffic violation, there are three separate “pleas” that can be entered by the alleged at fault party in response to the ticket charge.  Those different pleas include: “Not Guilty;” “Guilty;”, or “No Contest.”  We sometimes also refer to No Contest as “NoLo” or “Nolo Contendere.”  The chosen plea could determine whether a trier of fact will indeed hear about the traffic ticket. 

“Guilty” Plea – At Fault

This plea is fairly obvious.  You are admitting to being at fault for the ticket.  If someone admits fault for  the accident, this could help your case because the liability portion of a negligence claim should then be established.  This could also be considered an admission against interest in Nevada.   As a result, it could be possible to enter this information before a jury as it pertains to who was really at fault for the accident. 

“Not Guilty” Plea – Not At Fault

In the United States anyone can plead “not guilty” to any crime charged against them.  Nevada and traffic tickets are no different.  When someone pleads not guilty, an actual trial occurs before a traffic judge.  Pleading not guilty, even if the judge finds you were guilty, could pose difficulties in getting information about the traffic ticket and a person’s fault into evidence at trial. 

“No Contest” or “Nolo Contendere

A “No Contest” plea is similar to that of a guilty plea.  A traffic fine might be given, but many times this plea is simply made to avoid traffic school and driver’s license DMV points.  In this case, it isn’t technically a guilty plea so admission of fault and the ticket are not guaranteed in trial. 

If you were involved in an accident in Las Vegas and the other party is not admitting to being at fault, call Steve Dixon Law at (702) 329-4911.  Our office has litigated hundreds of cases in these situations and even if a traffic violation is not admissible, our team of lawyers can help establish who really is at fault for your car crash and injuries. 

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