Recently, a four-vehicle crash on the southeast side of San Antonio killed one woman after a man driving a stolen car struck three cars as he ran through a red light. The man ignored a red light and drove a stolen Toyota RAV4 into a Ford Focus, which triggered a chain reaction with two other cars. One of the drivers of the other cars was hospitalized after the crash, only to eventually die from her injuries. The man has been charged with murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and theft of a vehicle – but one may wonder why the man is facing criminal charges, while many who accidentally cause the death of another person face only civil liability.
Homicide vs. Wrongful Death
When someone dies due to another person’s actions, it may result in either civil liability, criminal guilt, or both. The general principle is that while homicide may fall under the umbrella of wrongful death, not every wrongful death rises to the level of homicide. Texas law defines homicide as causing the death of another individual “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence.” Conversely, wrongful death is when someone’s death is due to another person’s “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default.”
While negligence or carelessness is a standard that implies a lack of care on the part of the defendant, it is not the same as acting recklessly or with intentional malice. In short, while wrongful death and most other civil torts require a showing that the defendant did not act with sufficient care, crimes usually involve the defendant acting with no care at all. The man in the story from above cannot be said to have acted with any degree of care with regard to the safety of the other occupants of the vehicles he struck – thus his being charged with murder and other crimes.
Can I File a Civil Suit?
If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful or reckless actions of another person, and they have been criminally charged in the incident, you may wonder if you are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit to try and recover financially for your losses, or if the state’s criminal proceedings preempt this. The answer is that you are generally always permitted to file a civil suit against someone charged with a crime – but your suit may be forced to wait until after criminal proceedings are completed.
There are several reasons for this, but as frustrating as it may be, there is one significant advantage to waiting: namely, that the standard of proof is much higher in a criminal trial than it is in a civil proceeding. This means that, some exceptions notwithstanding, evidence that is found admissible in a criminal trial will likely be admissible in civil court, which can aid you and your attorney in establishing negligence against the defendant. More information is always better in cases where negligence must be shown.
Call a New Braunfels Wrongful Death Attorney
While there is no evidence as of this writing that the deceased driver’s family plan to file suit against the man for the death of their loved one, he will still face serious criminal charges. If you have lost someone in a similar fashion, calling an experienced New Braunfels wrongful death lawyer from the Bettersworth Law Firm can be the first step toward seeking compensation for the loss you have suffered. Contact our offices today at 888-392-0039 to schedule a free consultation.