Man and woman arguing over who is at fault after a car accident

After a car crash, you’ll probably do three things: assess yourself for injuries, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, and call the police to file an accident report.

When the police arrive, they’ll take down information from both drivers, and write a ticket for whichever driver they judge to be at fault in the accident. However, that’s not always what happens.

If you were in an accident and called the police to file a report, but the police officer left without writing anyone a ticket, you may be stuck wondering whether you can still get compensation for your vehicle repairs and injuries.

Let’s go over why this situation happens, and what it means for you.

Why No One Gets a Ticket After a Collision

There are essentially two reasons why no one would be written a ticket after a collision.

  • No laws were broken. Tickets can only be written for traffic violations, and if no traffic violation was committed, no ticket will be written. Most crashes happen because a driver was doing something illegal, such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, or texting while driving. Unfortunately, not all dangerous driving behaviors are illegal.
  • The police couldn’t determine fault. In many crashes, there is enough obvious evidence for responding police officers to draw conclusions about what happened. For example, if two cars collided at a stop sign, the officer can typically conclude the driver with the damage to the front of their vehicle illegally failed to come to a stop and is at fault for hitting the driver with the damage to the rear of their vehicle. However, not all wrecks are as cut-and-dried as this scenario.

Can I Still File a Lawsuit After a Crash Even If No One Got a Ticket? 

Yes. Even if the person who caused your injuries wasn’t doing anything illegal, they can still be found negligent in a civil proceeding like a personal injury lawsuit.

For example, it’s not illegal in South Carolina to eat while driving. However, the standard for negligence is whether a “reasonable person” would recognize the behavior as dangerous and likely to cause harm. Many people eat while driving, but most people also know that taking a hand off the wheel to hold a burger purchased at a drive-thru makes them more likely to lose control of their vehicle.

A ticket is just one piece of evidence that the other driver was negligent, but it’s not the only piece of evidence that can be used. In fact, it may not even be necessary. An experienced auto accident attorney can help prove the other driver was negligent through a variety of evidence, including:

  • The police report
  • Testimony from witnesses or experts
  • Video footage from dash cams, traffic cams, or security cameras from nearby businesses
  • Physical evidence from the crash
  • Crash scene reconstructions

Can a Police Officer Write a Ticket Later If They Didn’t at the Crash Scene?

Yes, while it may seem strange or even unfair, just because a police officer doesn’t write a ticket at the scene doesn’t mean no ticket will be written at all. Occasionally, police officers may seem to “let people go” after accidents or traffic stops without consequence, only for someone to later get a traffic citation in the mail.

Are Tickets Crucial in Determining Fault?

While receiving a ticket at an accident scene is a significant indicator of fault, it is not the sole factor determining fault. Legally, a ticket is an acknowledgment of a traffic violation, not a definitive proof of liability in an accident. Courts and insurance companies consider a broader range of factors when determining fault. Therefore, even if no ticket is issued, this does not automatically mean that the other driver cannot be held responsible for the accident. It’s crucial to understand that liability in a car crash is a separate legal determination from traffic violations.

Evidence that Helps Prove the Other Driver Was at Fault

Proving the other driver’s fault in a car accident involves collecting various forms of evidence. This includes gathering witness statements, which can offer unbiased accounts of the incident. Photographic or video evidence from the scene, showing vehicle positions and damage, is also critical. If available, traffic or security camera footage can provide a clear picture of the accident as it occurred. Additionally, phone records may be used to establish if the other driver was distracted, for instance, by texting at the time of the accident.

Downsides of Accepting a Quick Settlement

Accepting a quick settlement from an insurance company can be tempting, especially in the immediate aftermath of a car accident. However, such offers often do not reflect the full extent of your damages and can leave you under compensated. Quick settlements typically favor the insurer, not the victim, and may not cover future medical expenses, ongoing care, or lost wages due to injury. Additionally, accepting a settlement usually means waiving the right to pursue further legal action if complications arise later.

How Injury Attorneys Can Help in These Situations

In the aftermath of a car accident, your attorney plays a crucial role. They have the expertise to navigate the complex legal and insurance processes, ensuring that your rights are protected. An attorney will help in gathering and analyzing evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and, if necessary, representing your case in court. They can also assist in identifying potential sources of compensation that you may not have considered. By leveraging their knowledge and resources, attorneys can significantly increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome in your case.

Contact Our Experienced South Carolina Car Accident Attorneys Today

After a collision, someone is always going to be found at fault. However, when there is no ticket issued, it does make it harder to prove who is responsible.

South Carolina follows a modified comparative negligence law, which means both drivers could be found partially at fault for a crash. If you are found to be more than 50% responsible, you lose all rights to compensation. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced auto accident attorney on your side.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a wreck and seriously injured, call our team today for a free case review. Our South Carolina car crash attorneys can help prove you were not at fault and ensure you get the compensation you need.

Originally published April 12, 2021. Updated January 29, 2024.

About the Author

Since 1968, the South Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys of Joye Law Firm have been committed to securing compensation for accident and injury victims. Our compassionate and dedicated lawyers have over 300 years of combined litigation experience, and many of them have been recognized as South Carolina Super Lawyers. For many years, our South Carolina personal injury law firm has been listed with an AV rating in the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal directory.

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