Recently, law enforcement was called to an accident on IH-35, near Posey Road in Bexar County, where a Nissan 370Z had overturned after racing another vehicle, ejecting its passenger almost 70 feet through the air. While the driver suffered minor injuries, the passenger remains, as of this writing, in a hospital in Kyle in critical condition. The driver was charged with the crime of “suspicion of racing on a highway causing serious bodily injury” – a second-degree felony – but if you have been injured due to another driver’s similarly negligent behavior, you have the right to seek compensation.
No Double Jeopardy
Texas law defines ‘street racing’ as any kind of speed contest or race, and any kind of drag race or other competition involving speed is illegal on all public roads, regardless of how abandoned they are or how high the speed limit may be. As one can imagine, this kind of behavior is most common among younger drivers – both the driver and the passenger in the Posey Road accident were around the age of 20 – but older people do engage in it as well. Street racing was formerly just a traffic violation, but in 2003 laws were passed elevating it to a misdemeanor (Class B), carrying a one-year license suspension, as well as assorted fines and up to 180 days in jail.
People who are arrested for street racing may also face other charges such as reckless driving or speeding, but in addition to the criminal charges, they may face civil lawsuits from the people they allegedly injure with their negligent behavior. It can be easy to assume that since someone is being charged criminally, you are barred from filing a civil lawsuit because of the Fifth Amendment right to be free from double jeopardy (essentially, being tried twice for the same crime). This is not actually the case – double jeopardy only attaches if someone is tried twice in the same court system for the exact same crime. Being tried once criminally and once civilly is permissible because two different parties are thought to have been wronged (the state and the individual).
Once you are aware that you can file a civil suit against a negligent street racer, you should be aware that you may have to wait. The standard of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while the standard of proof in a civil case is lower, so anything that is admissible in a criminal trial is generally admissible in a civil trial. Thus, most attorneys wait until a criminal trial has ended before mounting a civil trial – but this does not mean you will never get a chance to have your day in court.
Criminal trials seek to impose fines and jail time, while civil suits seek money damages for the harm you have suffered. If you have been injured by a street racer, you may be able to assert what Texas law calls “negligence per se” – normally, in order to recover in a civil case, a plaintiff must establish the defendant’s negligence by establishing that they did not act with reasonable care. However, if the defendant has injured someone by breaking a law designed to protect people like the victim (for example, breaking the law against street racing, designed to protect other drivers and passengers), the court will simply establish that the defendant was negligent, without the plaintiff having to prove it. Contacting an attorney to help clarify matters can help you determine how best to proceed.
Call a New Braunfels Car Accident Attorney
While there is currently no further information on the status of the young passenger injured on Posey Road, it is important to keep in mind that if you are injured in a similar fashion, you do have options to try and recover from the negligent defendant. The skilled New Braunfels auto accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm have years of experience with reckless driving and street racing cases, and we are ready and willing to try and guide you through the legal process. Contact our offices today at 888-392-0039 to schedule a free consultation.