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....