If you’ve been injured in an accident, insurance claims and personal injury claims can be excellent ways to get compensation. However, these sorts of claims are often complex, and it’s normal for the liable party to try to access the victim’s driving record. Are they allowed to use your driving record against you in court and will it harm your case? Here’s what you need to know.
Is the Other Party Allowed to Examine Your Driving Record?
When you hear that the other party is trying to discuss your driving record, your first reaction is probably, “Wait, is that even legal?” Texas law does allow any interested party to take a look at your driver’s record. You aren’t legally obligated to share anything with them yourself. However, they can ask the Department of Public Safety to provide them with a copy of your driver’s record. The publicly available information on a driver’s record includes:
- All crashes you’ve been in, regardless of if you received a ticket
- All moving violations you’ve been cited for
- All non-moving violations you’ve received
- All license suspensions
Once the other party’s insurance company or lawyer has this information, they are usually also allowed to bring it up in court. Texas personal injury cases include a wide variety of evidence. Usually, the court will only exclude evidence from the case if it is illegally obtained, unreliable, or irrelevant. Since driving records are legally obtained from a government agency, they’re typically valid evidence. Past legal precedent has ruled that the victim’s driving records are relevant in personal injury cases, so this sort of evidence is rarely dismissed in court.
Ways Your Driving Record Might Impact Your Claim
Why might the other party try so hard to get a copy of your driver’s record and discuss it in court? This type of evidence can help them attempt to defend themselves against your claim. Here are some of the many ways your driving record can make it harder to get compensation.
They May Try to Say You Contributed to the Accident
The main reason that insurance companies and defense lawyers will want your record is because they’ll want to say you were at fault in the accident. If you have a history of speeding, running stop signs, or getting in accidents, the liable party might try to paint you as a reckless driver. If they can do this, they are more likely to be able to convince the court that you contributed to an accident.
Even if the other driver was significantly more at-fault, it can still benefit them to say you were driving poorly too. For example, if they hit you when pulling out of a side road, they might claim that they only hit you because you were speeding and arrived at the intersection faster than expected.
This could help them in court because of Texas’s modified comparative negligence laws. In Texas personal injury claims, if the plaintiff is partially at fault, their overall compensation is reduced. Therefore, using your driver’s record to make you look bad could lower the amount of money the defendant has to pay.
They Might Try to Claim Your Injuries Are Pre-Existing
Another reason that the other driver of the accident will want your driver’s record is to check and see if you have been in any previous crashes that damaged your health. Part of getting compensation for a car crash is proving that the crash caused your injury. Of course, no insurance company will want to pay for years of spine surgery if all your back problems were caused by another car accident. Any time you have been in a recent accident, you can expect your driving record to be brought up in court.
This legal strategy is somewhat uncommon since it’s rare for a person to be in multiple serious accidents within a short time period. In most cases, you can use medical records to easily disprove the other party’s arguments. However, the plaintiff’s lawyer is likely to bring up any possible defense they can conceive of, so it’s still worth preparing for this sort of claim.
When Should You Disclose Your Driving Record?
Your driving record might be very important to the outcome of your case, but it’s not automatically brought up. There are plenty of injury claims where the other party’s record isn’t discussed. To figure out whether or not you should disclose your driving record, there are a few things you need to consider.
Your Attorney Should Know as Soon as Possible
First of all, you should disclose your record as soon as you meet with a lawyer to talk about the case. Your discussions with your lawyer are protected by attorney-client privilege, so as long as you don’t have plans to break the law or lie in court, it’s fine to talk with your lawyer about your driving record.
Letting them know about a past history of poor driving is important because it gives them time to prepare. Instead of having your legal team be blindsided in court, tell them ahead of time so they can formulate arguments to support your case. Making sure they have all the details gives you a better chance of winning your case.
You Don’t Need to Volunteer the Information to the Other Party
In most legal cases or insurance claims, it’s best to keep quiet unless you are legally required to volunteer evidence. The last thing you should do is tell the defendant’s insurance company, “This accident reminds me of the time I made another driver rear-end me!” If the other party wants your driving record, they have plenty of opportunities to seek it legally. Therefore, you have no reason to provide it to them unprompted.
Though you might be tempted to try and get ahead of the other party’s claims that you are a bad driver, you shouldn’t necessarily assume they’ll even talk about your record in court. Some lawyers may be incompetent or make a mistake, so they might forget to mention the fact that you have a bad record. In most situations, your car crash attorney will advise you to avoid mentioning it unless the other party does.
You May Be Legally Obligated to Disclose Your Record
If your claim passes the negotiation stage and becomes an actual lawsuit, you will eventually enter the discovery process. During this stage of a lawsuit, both parties can formally request certain information from the other, and you are typically legally obligated to provide that information. Since your driving record is a matter of public record, they can ask you for documentation about this record.
Usually, this disclosure will simply be things the party could find out on their own anyway, so cooperating won’t necessarily be a problem. However, if they ask for more details besides basic traffic tickets and crashes, sharing this information might not be in your best interest. Your lawyer can guide you through the discovery process, protect your rights, and advise you on what information you ought to share.
How to Keep a Poor Driving Record From Damaging Your Claim
If your driving record has a history of accidents and tickets, is your case automatically over? Not necessarily. A good lawyer has plenty of strategies that can help you get compensation regardless of what your past record looks like. Here are some common ways your lawyer can protect you in court.
Highlighting the Other Driver’s Even Worse Record
One of the most useful things to do is simply check out the other driver’s record. Even if there is clear evidence that they were at fault in this particular accident, it’s useful to show they’ve also driven poorly in the past. This can establish that the other driver is very reckless and would be likely to get into accidents regardless of how you were driving. Using this strategy is particularly likely to work in your favor if you can show the other driver’s record is even worse than yours.
Providing Evidence You Were Driving Safe That Day
A bad driving record doesn’t necessarily prove anything about how you were driving on the day of the accident. In many cases, it can be helpful to brush it aside and instead focus on the accident itself. Your lawyer can help you collect evidence such as video footage from nearby doorbell cameras or witness testimony from people at the accident. They can also get documentation from expert witnesses who use things like the damage on the car to recreate how you were driving in the moments before the accident. All of this evidence can combine to show that you were driving normally and prove liability for the accident rests solely with the other driver.
Collecting Detailed Proof of Medical Injuries
If your lawyer suspects the other side will try to claim your injuries were pre-existing, they may recommend some very thorough medical examinations. You can benefit from collecting past medical records to show that previous crashes didn’t hurt you, and you can also use a doctor’s testimony to show that your injuries are recent. Keep in mind that even if you did get injured in a prior crash, you can still get compensation if the new crash worsened your pre-existing condition. As long as you can show the accident changed your health for the worse, you have a case.
Other Ways Your Driving Record Can Affect Your Case
Don’t forget that your driving record can also be quite useful for you. Though most people’s main worry is that their driving record can harm their claim, it can also support your case. If you have a fairly good driving record, you can use it to prove that you’re a safe driver. Of course, the best record is one with no crashes or tickets, but you are also in a good position if you have no recent violations or crashes and can show you took driving lessons after any previous incidents.
A good driving record can be particularly important in situations where there were no witnesses or other helpful evidence. In a case that comes down to which party the court believes, a stellar driving record can be a great way to establish your reliability. Even if the other party doesn’t choose to pull up your driving record, it can be very useful to go ahead and get this documentation. You can use it to show that you are generally a safe, cautious driver who is unlikely to get into accidents unless another driver is being negligent.
If you’ve been the victim of an accident recently, it’s important to talk to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury lawyer can help you navigate all the steps of making a claim and proving that you deserve compensation. Haney Paschal & Romoser have a team of highly qualified lawyers available to assist you. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today.