Road Law
Accident? Take a tip from 'Cool Hand Luke'

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

In this issue of Road Law we’re going to tell you about three simple rules we use for defending drivers in most accident cases. You can use these rules even if you don’t hire an attorney, because whether you choose Road Law to help you or you help yourself, these rules are basically the same.

Q. I was driving my truck on the interstate and a car suddenly cut into my lane and hit the side of my truck. We pulled over to the shoulder and I called 911. When the state trooper got there, he gave me a ticket for “failure to use due care.” I was driving perfectly and minding my own business when the car hit me. How can I get a ticket? How can I be accused of doing something wrong?

A. In the movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” the prison warden says to Luke, “Son, you gotta get your mind right.” Well, you’ve got to get your mind right in your accident case too. First, forget about questions of “How can I get a ticket?” and “How can I be accused?” These questions are no longer important and lamenting on the “How?” and “Why Me?” isn’t going to do you any good. You were already past those questions when you were handed the ticket. Time for the rules.

Rule No. 1: At some point within the first 24 hours after your accident, you have to sit down and write a statement of facts. Maybe you already did this as part of the original accident report, but make sure whatever statement you write, or have already written, is fact specific and includes everything that happened. The purpose of writing out your statement is that you have it when it’s time to go to court and depending on the facts of the accident, you may be handing your statement directly to the prosecutor or judge as a show of good faith on your part – i.e., you have nothing to hide and you want the court to know that.

Rule No. 2: Get a printout of your last three-year driver abstract, MVR, driver record, whatever you want to call it. You don’t need a fancy certified copy from your home state DMV. Just a plain, regular print-out from your safety department or your home state DMV will work great. Also, sometimes you can get a copy of your driver abstract from your personal insurance agent as well. If your record is good (we didn’t say perfect), you’ll want to share it with the prosecutor and judge as written proof that you are a good driver and are not a habitual offender of traffic laws.

Rule No. 3: This may be the most important rule in any accident case where you receive a ticket. When you or your attorney goes to court, the judge is going to ask this question, “Have property damages been paid for?” If you can say yes to that question and give the judge written proof that damages have been paid, you’ve just increased your odds of having your ticket dismissed by at least 50 percent. If you can then hand the judge your written statement of facts and a good driver abstract, you’ve increased your dismissal odds by 70-80 percent.

Do you see what following these rules do for you? Following these rules will “get your mind right.” Instead of going to court to gripe about what a jerk the officer was or that you shouldn’t have received the ticket in the first place, you’re proving to the court what a good person you are. You’re telling the court that you’re a deserving candidate for relief. You’re allowing the judge to feel good about helping you and that you’ve “got your mind right.” After the judge dismisses your case with no fines or court costs, now is the time to file your grievance against the officer who wrote you the bogus ticket so that officer’s supervisor can work on getting the officer’s mind right. LL

Send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to: Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial,

Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134. Contact us through our website at or call us at 405-242-2030.