In January, two boys in Cedar Park, outside of Round Rock, engaged in drag racing, causing the deaths of two young boys when one of them crashed. On February 28, a negligence lawsuit was filed by the family of the deceased children, asking for significant damages, based at least partially on the defendant’s alleged lack of remorse following the incident. If you have been in this position or been in a position where you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s alleged negligence, it is important to understand what the law allows and what it does not.
Prior to 2003, drag racing was considered a minor traffic violation, but after films like The Fast and the Furious began to grow in popularity, more and more incidents began occurring, and more injuries and fatalities were chalked up to the trend. Laws were modified in that year, upgrading drag racing from a traffic violation to a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a significant fine (as high as $2,000) and up to 180 days in jail, with increasing penalties for a second and third offense.
Causing injuries or fatalities brings the offense up to a felony – depending on the damage done, the punishment can be anywhere from 2 to 20 years in prison, and a $10,000 fine. In extreme cases, multiple felony convictions for drag racing can result in a life sentence, though this is very, very rare. The young man in the Cedar Park case faces second-degree felony charges, which carries a sentence of 2-20 years in prison, plus a large fine if convicted.
Parallel Proceedings Can Happen
While criminal charges may be assessed against drag racers, it is possible for you to sue in civil court as well, as the family in the Cedar Park incident is doing. Texas usually prosecutes an individual for a crime before a civil proceeding can begin, but even a conviction does not mean that a person cannot be sued – for example, O.J. Simpson was sued in civil court even after being found guilty of murder in his criminal trial.
While it can be frustrating to wait to obtain the monetary compensation you or your family may need, the criminal proceeding happening first may actually help you in civil court. Texas observes a doctrine called collateral estoppel, which means that anything “fully and fairly” litigated in one action can be stipulated to (agreed upon in terms of meaning) in a second action. In short, if certain facts are established in a criminal trial, you do not have to establish them in the ensuing civil trial; you can simply rely upon them to make your case.
Call an Experienced Attorney
While as of this writing, there has been no ruling in the Cedar Park lawsuit, it is still important to understand your options if you or a loved one has been injured by someone drag racing, as you may be entitled to compensation you need. The passionate New Braunfels car accident attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm can sit down with you and answer your questions, which can hopefully help you decide how best to proceed.