Criminal charges are not filed after many Maryland truck accidents. Yet, in cases where criminal charges are filed after an accident, that evidence may be admissible in a civil proceeding. Generally, in the event that a driver pleads guilty in court to a criminal offense or a traffic citation, evidence of the guilty plea may be admitted in a subsequent civil proceeding in Maryland. In contrast, if a driver pays a fine for a traffic citation without going to court, generally evidence of the payment of the fine cannot be admitted in a subsequent civil proceeding in Maryland. Courts in Maryland have held that the payment of a fine is less significant than a guilty plea in court and is not an express acknowledgment of guilt. If evidence of a guilty plea is admitted in a personal injury case, that evidence may still be rebutted or explained.
In a criminal case, the culpability of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, in a civil case, the liability of the defendant must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a less demanding burden of proof. This means that even if no criminal charges were filed, a civil lawsuit may still be viable because the burden of proof is easier to meet and evidence that was inadmissible in a criminal trial may be admissible in a civil case.
Notably, however, under Rule 5-403 of the Maryland Rules of Evidence, even if certain evidence would otherwise be admissible, it can be excluded from the trial if the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of prejudice it poses. Evidence may also be excluded for other reasons. Whatever the circumstances, a plaintiff may have to fight to get the evidence admitted and to combat the defendant’s narrative of lack of culpability despite the offense.