Kane County Car Accident Lawyers: Using a Defendant’s Guilty Plea to a Traffic Citation in a Civil Case

Motor vehicle accidents raise many complicated issues of fault and proof. One way to prove a defendant’s liability is by using an admission of guilt (“guilty plea”) in the underlying traffic court proceeding, which is ordinarily conducted soon after an accident is reported. Often, a potential defendant will plead guilty to a traffic citation. The guilty plea may be used in the civil case to demonstrate the fault of the motorist. “[G]uilty pleas to traffic offenses have been admitted in subsequent civil proceedings as admissions.” Young v. Forgas, 308 Ill.App.3d 553, 565 (4th Dist. 1999). A defendant’s claim he did not appreciate the effect of a guilty plea in a traffic case is irrelevant. As stated in Young, a “person must realize that civil litigation is a very real possibility and that the guilty plea to the traffic charge could reflect adversely upon him in a subsequent proceeding.” Id.

A guilty plea is an exception to the hearsay rule. “A guilty plea to a traffic violation is admissible as an admission against interest in a later civil action on the same facts.” Mivatovich v. Chicago Transit Authority, 112 Ill.App.2d 437, 442 (1st Dist. 1969). Courts reason that “a judicial admission is a deliberate, clear, unequivocal statement of a party about a concrete fact within that party’s peculiar knowledge.” Sohaey v. Van Cura, 240 Ill.App.3d 266, 280 (2nd Dist. 1992). “[A] judicial admission is conclusive upon the party who made it, and the party may not controvert the admission at trial or on appeal, so the effect of a judicial admission is to withdraw a fact from contention. Id., at 280-81. Additionally, “a party cannot create a question of fact for purposes of a summary judgment motion by attempting to contradict a previous judicial admission.” Id.

An experienced plaintiff’s attorney can use the traffic citation guilty plea to their advantage. The attorney can be confident in using the guilty plea because courts are reluctant bar a prior guilty plea from a jury at trial. Excluding evidence that the defendant pleaded guilty to a traffic citation is a prejudicial and reversible error by a trial court. Codgill v. Durham, 43 Ill.App.3d 940, 942-43 (1st. Dist. 1976).

A monetary damages award is the only opportunity our justice system offers to make an injured person whole again. An experienced plaintiff’s attorney can help their client maximize their recovery by investigating into the events that occurred at the scene of the accident, as well as those events that occurred well after the parties departed from the scene, including the admissions made in the traffic court. The attorney should send a subpoena or Freedom of Information Act Request. If the defendant has pleaded guilty to a traffic citation issued from the crash, this can and should be used against the defendant in the civil case. If you or your loved one has been injured in a car accident, you should immediately contact a knowledgeable attorney.