How the Admission of Improper Evidence May Entitle You to a New Trial in Pennsylvania
In real life, motor vehicle accident victims come from all walks of life and have all kinds of “back stories.” Sometimes, people make errors of judgment that precede their accidents. If you made some mistakes in the moments preceding your accident, does that mean you absolutely cannot get compensation for your injuries? No. Depending on the facts of your case, you may still be entitled to recovery. To learn more about your options within the legal system, talk to an experienced Pennsylvania car accident attorney.
A recent case from Berks County provides an example of a case in which both sides had some degree of negligence. The case began with John and Ashley heading home from a wedding reception that they had attended. While at the reception, both John and Ashley had consumed alcohol. During the drive home, another driver, Anthony, allegedly began tailgating John. John allegedly became angry and began “brake-checking” Anthony.
At a red light, John got out of his car and began approaching Anthony. Anthony tried to get away in his car, but, in the process, he hit John and dragged him roughly 100 feet. Once EMTs got to the scene, they allegedly found John combative and smelling of alcohol. Eventually, the police charged John with harassment, driving drunk, and driving on a suspended license.
John was injured as a result of the collision with Anthony’s car, so he sued Anthony for negligence and recklessness. Before the trial started, John asked the judge to keep certain pieces of evidence out of the trial. These included anything related to the harassment charge and his being intoxicated at the scene, as well as his pleading guilty to driving drunk and driving with a suspended license.
The trial judge ruled against John and allowed Anthony to present all of the evidence to the jury. At the end of the trial, the jury concluded that Anthony was 26% at fault in the accident, and John was 74% to blame. Under Pennsylvania’s contributory negligence laws, an injured plaintiff can only recover damages if he was less than 50% at fault. Since John’s percentage was 74%, that meant he got nothing.
John appealed and was successful in getting an order of a new trial. Ideally, when the opposing party in your personal injury case seeks to admit proof that should be excluded, you will make a motion to suppress, and the court will grant it. If the court lets in evidence that should not have gotten in, and you ultimately lose the case, your next step is to seek a new trial through the appeal process and make a second effort at making your case for damages at the new trial.
The basis for John’s new trial was the evidence regarding the harassment arrest (which was later dismissed) and the guilty plea on the suspended license charge. The DUI crime was relevant to the case at hand, in terms of determining which man was negligent and to blame for the collision. The harassment arrest and the suspended license charge were not. By allowing this irrelevant evidence, the trial court unfairly prejudiced John’s case. That meant that he was entitled to a new trial.
Don’t assume that, if you made some mistakes leading up to your accident, you have no case for recovery. Instead of assuming, get the information you need by contacting the experienced Pennsylvania car accident attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our attorneys have an average of 20+ years of experience providing strong legal representation to personal injury plaintiffs.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.