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What is a Civil Reservation?


Did you know that a moving violation can be evidence in a personal injury lawsuit?

Many drivers in New Jersey are involved in automobile accidents and receive a ticket for a moving violation, such as Careless Driving (39:4-97), but did you know that if you plead guilty to the offense, or even a downgraded offense,  under the doctrine of Negligence Per Se, a rebuttable presumption of negligence may be created?  More plainly said, the plaintiff usually must show that:

1. The defendant violated the statute;
2. The statute provides for a criminal penalty (i.e., fines or imprisonment) but not by civil penalties;
3. The act caused the kind of harm the statute was designed to prevent; and
4. The plaintiff was a member of the statute’s protected class.

Thus, you may be held responsible for personal injuries simply because you were issued a ticked by a police officer, who did not even witness the accident! Even if Negligence Per Se is not an issue, the plea of guilty to a traffic offense can be used as evidence against you in Civil Court.

For these reasons, a defendant has the choice to plead guilty in municipal court and have it effect the pending civil suit, or have a trial.  Municipal courts deal with traffic matters, not civil responsibility and are not the place for trials that are really about civil responsibility.

To alleviate this concern, there is R. 7:6-2, which permits for an Order that a plea be deemed non-evidentiary.  This means that if a Civil Reservation is granted, your plea of guilty in the municipal court cannot be used against you in any civil court proceedings.  In order to obtain the non-evidentiary reservation, a motion needs to be made at the conclusion of municipal court trial or hearing by the attorney handling the case.  If the victim or their attorney is present and decides to object, a hearing will be had on the issue.  Nonetheless, the presumption of the court is to grant the reservation.

It is difficult to know which accident/ careless driving case is going to result in a personal injury law suit. The statute of limitations is two years for a personal injury action.  By the time a suit may emerge, the municipal court matter could have been long decided.  In fact, the failure to obtain a civil reservation may make a case easier for a plaintiff and thus a law suit more likely.  A few questions to be considered when deciding whether a ticket should be contested so that a Civil Reservation can be sought:

1. Was the accident a fender bender or was their significant damage?
2. Was there an air bag deployment?
3. Was either driver taken to the hospital?

The Law Offices of James A. Abate handles both traffic matters and personal injury lawsuits, offering clients the best of both worlds.  If you’re facing punishment for a moving violation in which you were involved in an accident, call us today at (908) 210-9755 for a free consultation.  Our office frequently handles suspended license cases in Union, Somerset, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties.  We frequently appear in the following municipalities:

Bedminster Municipal Court, Bridgewater Municipal Court, Berkley Heights Municipal Court, Bernardsville Municipal Court, Bound Brook Municipal Court, Branchburg Municipal Court, Carteret Municipal Court, Chatham, Cranford Municipal Court, Clinton Municipal Court, Clark Municipal Court, Dunellen Municipal Court,  Edison Municipal Court, Elizabeth Municipal Court, Fanwood Municipal Court, Far Hills Municipal Court, Far Hills Municipal Court, Flemington Municipal Court, Franklin Municipal Court, Garwood Municipal Court, Green Brook Municipal Court, Hillsborough Municipal Court, Kenilworth, Lebanon Municipal Court, Linden Municipal Court,  Madison Municipal Court, Metuchen Municipal Court, Manville Municipal Court, Middlesex Municipal Court, Milburn Municipal Court, Montgomery Municipal Court, Mountainside Municipal Court, New Brunswick Municipal Court, New Providence Municipal Court, Newark Municipal Court, North Brunswick Municipal Court, North Hunterdon Municipal Court, North Plainfield Municipal Court, Old Bridge Municipal Court, Old Bridge Municipal Court, Piscataway Municipal Court, Plainfield Municipal Court, Plainsboro Municipal Court, Rahway Municipal Court, Raritan Municipal Court, Readington Municipal Court, Roselle Municipal Court, Sayreville Municipal Court, Scotch Plains Municipal Court, Somerville Municipal Court, South Bound Brook Municipal Court, South Plainfield Municipal Court, Springfield Municipal Court, Summit Municipal Court, Union Township Municipal Court, Warren Municipal Court, Watchung Municipal Court, Westfield Municipal Court, Woodbridge Municipal Court.

Get your questions answered – call me for your free, 20 min phone consultation (908) 210-9755

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