Earlier this year, my wife rear-ended another car on the interstate in the Atlanta metro region. This was a VERY low-speed impact --traffic was slow and she gave the other car what she thought was a reasonable distance. The damage to our car amounted to about 6 square inches of scuffs to the paint on the front bumper. The other car appeared to be unharmed except for some of our paint on its rear bumper. The other car was a state car driven by a state employee, and he was obligated to call the highway patrol. When the patrolman showed up, he wrote it up as an accident (my wife at-fault) and also cited her for following too closely.
GA state law defines an accident as "the collision of any motor vehicle with another vehicle ...in which any person is killed or injured or in which damage to the property of any one person to an extent of $500.00 or more is sustained"
We are CERTAIN that our car did not sustain such damage, and pretty sure the state car did not either. The accident report lists no injuries, and lists damage to both cars as "slight" (the next category up from "none"). It's been three months and no claims have been filed on our insurance.
The question is, would we stand a chance in court if we argue that this should not have been reported/filed as an accident, and if no accident occurred, that my wife was not following too closely? After all, she was giving enough distance so that an accident would not occur, and if my understanding of the definition is correct, none did.
Other possible mitigating factors:
--She was two weeks into a new job (70 miles away from our house--she had to get an apartment mid-way for the weekdays), stressed-out, and very new to Atlanta traffic.
--She has never been cited for ANY violation before (she's 24) and never at-fault in an accident.
--She has been diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD. She took meds for anxiety at the time, but had not been diagnosed with ADHD yet.
This seems like a reasonable defense to us, but we are very afraid that if the court views it as a waste of the county's time for some reason we're overlooking, they will "throw the book at her."
She has pleaded "not guilty," and then we got a continuance so that we could consult a lawyer and build our case (it was a tough semester for me and I couldn't do it, and she was buried in work). Problem is, since the other driver could not come to the next available date, the recorder's court clerk decided to schedule us in State court (jury trial and talk of public defenders-- big uh-oh). This thing just keeps escalating, and over what seems to be a trivial incident (no damage, no injuries).
If it really is a silly defense, we'll take our lumps and deal with it-- I just hope we haven't made things much worse by initially trying to contest the ticket. If she is found guilty or pleads guilty now, can the fine or court costs get worse? If we do chicken out, is there still a way to not go in front of a jury/waste court's time/get book thrown at?
Thanks in advance