And How Does It Play Into My Civil Lawsuit? //
At Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, we know all too well how tragic car accidents can be. When someone dies as a result of a collision, criminal charges sometimes come into play. This is especially true for cases that involve a DUI. Florida’s vehicular homicide statutes define vehicular homicide as a felony offense. People charged with vehicular homicide can face up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. The consequences intensify if the driver leaves the scene of the accident.
When drivers are extremely reckless, they can be charged with “manslaughter by culpable negligence,” and drivers who have a BAC at the time of the accident can be charged with DUI manslaughter.
Options for the Victims
While these criminal charges will punish the wrongdoer and help restore a sense of justice, they do little for the victims of fatal traffic accidents. Many times, the family members of the deceased will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party and their insurance company. If the at-fault driver is insured, family members may be able to recover damages that help them with funerary expenses and other costs associated with the accident. If the driver left the scene, was uninsured, or does not have assets, victims may be able to recover from uninsured or underinsured motorist policies.
Regardless of who they negotiate with, surviving family members may have to prove how negligence caused their loved one’s death.
Criminal vs. Civil Cases
Many times, civil wrongful death cases unfold at the same time as vehicular homicide cases. Sometimes, plaintiffs (people filing in civil court) wait for the results of the criminal trial before filing a civil charge. The results of a criminal trial, however, should not have too much bearing on civil lawsuits.
A defendant could be found “not guilty” of vehicular homicide and still be liable for wrongful death. If the defendant is guilty, though, proving liability in a civil context should not be difficult. This is because civil and criminal cases have different burdens of proof. Prosecutors (people bringing about criminal charges) must prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whereas plaintiffs must only prove liability via a “preponderance of the evidence.”
If you were to file a wrongful death suit, for example, you would only need to show that there is a greater than 50% chance the defendant’s misconduct caused your loved one’s death.
Is a Civil Lawsuit Always Appropriate?
When someone is charged with vehicular homicide, the victim’s bereaved family members are almost always left behind. Nevertheless, civil lawsuits are not always necessary. Sometimes, insurance claims work how they’re meant to, and attorneys help plaintiffs recover compensation without legal action all the time.
If you need help coping with the financial consequences of an accident that inspires vehicular homicide charges, our lawyers at Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC are here for you.
Call us at (866) 675-4427 today or contact us online for a free consultation.
We are available 24/7 for all your legal questions, concerns, and needs.