Automobile accidents can be disruptive and traumatic for many Louisianans. It may be unclear how to regroup and recover after accidents, particularly if the accident is one of the many fatal accidents that occur every year. Yet, recognizing the intricacies and complexities of accident recovery is oddly one of the first steps in successfully addressing the unfortunate damages and suffering that results.
A Louisiana man's recent acquittal of criminal charges underscores the specific legal complexities arising from the fatal car accident in which he was involved, and how victims of the accident and similar accidents can think about remedying their situations. The 32-year-old Louisiana man was charged with criminal negligent homicide after allegedly forcing a bus full of passengers out of his lane with his truck. One of the female passengers, who was near the front of the bus, died as a result of blunt force trauma.
Although the accident was quite devastating, the man's attorneys successfully combated the prosecution's allegations regarding the victim's death. Criminal negligent homicide is hard to prove. The prosecution needed to show that the defendant's actions caused the death of the victim beyond a reasonable doubt. Ultimately, the jury found that the prosecution did not meet this burden, and acquitted the Louisiana man of the charges.
The man is technically the prevailing party in the criminal justice system. However, he keenly observed during the trial that there are really no winners in this case. In fact, under the law, the criminal case does not end the possible litigation arising from this accident, and the victim's family could still prevail in the court system.
The female victim's family may still be able to pursue a wrongful death action in civil court. While it may have been difficult for the prosecution to make out its case against the Louisiana man, the woman's family may have an easier time since the standard of proof is lower in civil proceedings: it is by a preponderance of the evidence.
Thus, the man's civil liability does not turn on his criminal innocence. There still may be sufficient evidence for the woman's family to recover for their pain and suffering, among other damages and expenses. Appreciating these legal differences between criminal and civil cases may actually provide victims of car accidents with insights on how to proceed with their civil cases.
Source: Victoria Advocate, "Man acquitted of criminal negligent homicide in fatal May 2011 crash," Jessica Priest, Aug. 21, 2013.