Posted by Sansone / Lauber Trial Lawyers on March 28, 2014SHARE IT
A common and deadly cause of car accidents is a driver’s failure to yield the right of way when making a left turn across opposite lanes of traffic, not yielding to traffic at highway on and off ramps, and running stop signs. In my experience as a St Louis car accident lawyer, failure to yield is the 2nd most common cause of car accidents and injuries, the most common being rear-end collisions at stop lights.
Obviously, if someone causes a car accident and injures someone, they can hire a personal injury lawyer to enforce the civil negligence laws and get a money recovery from their auto insurance company to make up for their injuries, medical bills, lost work, etc…. Currently, Missouri Statute 304.351 (2013) lays out criminal penalties for failure to yield car accidents that cause an injury or death, including mandatory license suspensions. As the law is currently written the driver “may” lose their license if they are guilty of failing to yield and cause:
- “Physical injury”- Fine up to $200 and the court “may” (not must) suspend their license for up to (not at least) 30 days.
- “Serious physical injury” – Fine up to $500 and the court “may” (not must) suspend their license for up to (not at least) 90 days.
- “Fatality” – Fine up to $1,000 and the court “may” (not must) suspend their license for up to (not at least) 6 months.
That law will soon change to make the penalties stiffer. The new proposals have not been signed into law yet, but are contained in Senate Bill 696 or SB696. Under Senate Bill 696 the penalties will be raised as follows:
- “Physical injury”- Fine up to $1,000 but not less than $500 and the court “may” suspend their license for up to 30 days.
- “Serious physical injury” – Fine up to $3,000 but not less than $1,000 and the court “shall” (meaning must) suspend their license for 90 days.
- “Fatality” – Fine up to $10,000 but not less than $5,000 and the court “shall” (meaning must) suspend their license for up to 1 year but not less than 6 months.
This tougher law takes a lot of discretion away from municipal and city judges who may not normally impose very tough penalties on drivers that cause car accidents for not yielding. The unintended consequence of this law is that it may make civil cases just a little harder to pursue, I’ll tell you why…. once way to prove negligence of the other driver is to use a guilty plea they made in court on the traffic ticket they were issued. When the penalties are lower drivers are more likely to just plead guilty, and therefore admitting fault that can be used int he civil personal injury case to prove fault. When the penalties are extremely stiff, they are more likely to hire a lawyer to defend the criminal charges and then end up with a plea deal that reduced the charge to something else to avoid the harsh penalties.
So now, more drivers will hire lawyers to defend the failure to yield charge and push for plea deals amending the charge to something else to avoid the penalties, and without a vigilant lawyer on your side, they will often succeed. as it is common place in local courts to amend failure to yield charges to non-moving violations.
Whenever we take on a new case that involves a traffic violation by the other driver, we ALWAYS contact the prosecutor for the local court handing the ticket and make sure they are aware that their is an injured victim and demand that they do not offer a plea deal to the driver. More often than not, the prosecutor is not aware of the injuries adn once they are they agree not to amend the charges and make sure they prosecute the case fully. We do this anytime their is a criminal charge arising from the car accident, particularly DWI and drunk driving charges that arise from the car accident. see “Evidence of Intoxication“.