Can I be charged for the repair of a street sign 6 months after I hit it if the courts cleared me of all charges?

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Can I be charged for the repair of a street sign 6 months after I hit it if the courts cleared me of all charges?

About 6 months ago, I hit a street sign when my power steering went out and I couldn’t control my car. I was given a ticket and went to court. I paid the ticket and nothing was put on my record. Today, I received a bill saying I had to pay about $500 to replace the street sign. Can the road commission do this?

Asked on May 3, 2012 under Accident Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Don't confuse the criminal (including tickets and other violations) and civil legal systems--you can be cleared of any criminal charges, but still be held accountable to pay for the damage you did. Regardless of what happened with the summons and your ticket, the road commission can look to you to pay for the damage to the sign. You are not liable simply because you hit it--you would be liable, or financially obligated to pay, if you were at fault in hitting it. You would be at fault if you hit it deliberately, or--much more commonly--if you were driving negligently, or carelessly (e.g. texting or talking on cell phone; driving too fast; ignored a stop sign or light; etc.). If you do not feel you were at fault, you can refuse to pay; the commission would then have to sue you to force you to pay, and you could defend yourself by presenting evidence that you were not at fault.


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