In order to successfully pursue and settle a personal injury claim, you must overcome two hurdles.
The most important is liability.
Without clear and compelling evidence of fault on the part of the defendant, there may be no claim for personal injury. Liability in a personal injury claim related to a motor vehicle accident can hinge on the plea of the defendant driver at the time of the General District Court hearing.
Following a motor vehicle accident, there are several options for the defendant driver once issued a citation:
1) Simply pre-paying the assessed fine.
2) Appear before the Court and plead “guilty”; and thereafter pay the fine and Court costs assessed
Appear before the Court and plead “nolo contendere,” which means simply, no contest or “a plea by which a defendant in a criminal prosecution accepts conviction as though a guilty plea had been entered but does not admit guilt.” Again, this plea requires payment of the assessed fine and Court costs.
3) Finally, a defendant driver may plead “not guilty” and the case will be held over for a General District Court trial where the defendant driver may provide evidence to the Court supporting his/her plea. At this trial, the Commonwealth may also provide evidence of the defendant driver’s guilt. Your assistance at trial is a must.
In the event your defendant driver chooses to opt for one of the first three options, liability may be established. The establishment of liability in any personal injury claim is vital to a successful resolution of your claim.
How YOU can assist in proving liability:
- -Attend the defendant driver’s General District Court hearing.
- -Ensure your availability and attendance at the hearing and trial, if necessary.
- -Confirm that at the hearing the Commonwealth’s attorney knows that you are present.
- -Provide copies of photos of the location of the accident, your vehicle damage and injuries, billing statements and medical records.
- -Witnesses to the accident are crucial. Make sure that you have obtained names and contact information for those witnesses, especially in the case where your passenger is your witness. The Commonwealth may use all these items to argue the charge assessed against your defendant driver.
With a defendant driver’s guilty verdict, you are halfway to resolving your personal injury claim.
Read part 2 of this blog post here.
If you or someone you care for has been injured as the result of a car, truck, bicycle or motorcycle crash and there are questions about how best to move forward, please email or call us (703 796-9555) at Abrams Landau, Ltd.