After a conviction for "Driving on a Suspended License," many innocent car crash victims believe they have a guaranteed winning liability case. However, upon hearing that the fact of the Defendant’s license status may not be introduced into evidence at trial, many injured victims of car wrecks are shocked, angry and confused.
The trial judge will allow evidence that is relevant toward proving liability (fault), causation and damages. The key word here is causation. If the status of the Defendant driver’s license did not "cause" the car crash, then it is not relevant or admissable.
With evidence in a personal injury case, the plaintiff’s side has to make two distinct showings of causation: cause in fact, and proximate cause. Here’s a brief overview.
In most cases, cause in fact can be determined with the “but for” test. It’s fairly simple. In this case you would ask whether this statement is correct: “But for the defendant’s act of driving with a suspended license, this crash would not have occurred.”
The answer is no. Driving without a license didn’t make the wreck happen. Some other behavior such a speeding or crossing the center line caused it.
The comparison to driving while impaired is useful. In a case involving DWI, you can likely say, “But for the defendant’s act of drinking and driving, the crash would not have happened.”
Proximate cause would include the questions of whether the consequences of driving with the suspended license would be improbable or far-reaching, or would be foreseeable. It would probably be hard to show that the suspended license is actually proof that the defendant was negligent in this particular wreck.
Finally, it’s a fact that the driver broke the law by driving on the suspended license, and therefore should get a ticket. But the plaintiff’s goal is not prosecuting a violation; the goal is to prove negligent and unsafe driving by the defendant. The suspension doesn’t directly contribute to that goal, at least in the eyes of the law.
Are the causation restrictions on liability fair? There are certainly good arguments to the contrary. Rules of evidence are much more complex than the simple explanations posted here. Getting evidence admitted in a trial often requires a great deal of skill and experience, which is where an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you.