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Admission of Improper Evidence in Pennsylvania: How It May Entitle You to a New Trial

Date: Oct 13th, 2018 By SMA Law Group
Categories: Auto Accidents, DUI

Just because you had an error in judgment that led to a motor vehicle accident, doesn’t mean that you can’t receive compensation for your injuries. Car accident victims come from many different backgrounds and have varying stories. Depending on the facts of your particular case, you could still be eligible for recovery. By speaking to a Pittsburgh car accident attorney, you can learn more about your legal options.

There was a somewhat recent case in Berks County where both of the drivers involved displayed some degree of negligence. Ashley and John were returning home from a wedding reception where they had both been drinking. During the drive, John allegedly noticed another driver, Anthony, tailgating his vehicle. He then allegedly began “brake-checking” Anthony out of anger.

When both cars stopped at a red light, John exited his vehicle and began approaching Anthony, who tried to drive away. Unfortunately, he hit John in the process and dragged him approximately 100 feet. When the EMTs arrived on the scene, John was allegedly combative and reeked of alcohol. Once the police got to the scene, they charged John with a DUI, harassment, and driving on a suspended license.

Because John was injured in the collision, he sued Anthony for recklessness and negligence. John also asked the judge to exclude certain pieces of evidence from being discussed during the trial. Included in his list were the harassment charge, his intoxication, and his pleading guilty to driving with a suspended license and the DUI.

Instead, the judge allowed Anthony to present every bit of evidence to the jury. Because of the circumstances, the jury decided that John was 74 percent at fault for the accident, while Anthony was only 26 percent to blame. Pennsylvania’s contributory negligence laws state that an injured plaintiff can only receive compensation if he is less than 50 percent at fault for the collision. Because John had a higher percentage of fault, he couldn’t collect.

Unhappy with the results, John appealed his case and was given a new trial. In a trial, if the defendant wants to admit evidence that you prefer not to be let in, you make a motion to suppress and hope that the court grants it. If the court allows proof that should have been excluded and you lose your case, the next step is to appeal for a new trial and try again to make your case for damages.

John based his appeal on the use of his guilty plea on the suspended license charge and the fact that his harassment arrest was later dismissed. While the DUI crime could be considered relevant to make a case of negligence, the suspended license charge and harassment arrest could not. When the judge allowed irrelevant evidence into the case, he unfairly prejudiced the jury against him. Because of this, John was entitled to a new trial.

So, you see, never assume that mistakes leading up to an accident mean you can’t recover damages. Instead, contact an experienced Pittsburgh car accident attorney at the SMA Law Group for a fair evaluation of your case. As a compassionate and aggressive law team, we understand your rights and will fight to get you the money you deserve. Call us today at 412-765-3345 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.

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