Media outlets are reporting on various criminal charges brought as a result of the Suge Knight hit and run accident in January 2015, including counts of murder and attempted murder. Car accident attorneys, however, address potential confusion about a victim’s legal rights in cases where the driver of a vehicle is accused of committing a crime in the course of causing an accident.
If you have been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, regardless of whether the other driver was accused of a crime, contact Attorney Group for more information about your options. We offer free, no obligation consultations, and if you have a case we can connect you with an affiliated car accident attorney who can assist you through the legal process.
Criminal Liability for Hit and Run Accidents is Different Than Civil Liability
Car accident attorneys note that, whereas criminal charges have been brought in connection with the Suge Knight hit and run accident, Mr. Knight may still be liable under the civil justice system regardless of the outcome of his criminal case.
In a criminal matter, a person is accused of a crime and, if convicted, can be sentenced to jail. Sometime monetary fines and restitution are imposed on the guilty party. However, the outcome of a criminal matter is often not relevant to a civil matter that could be brought against the person committing the wrongful act. A person who flees the scene of an accident commits a crime, but if that person also injures or kills another person in the accident, he or she may face civil liability in addition to criminal charges.
Civil Cases Seek Payment of Money for Damages Caused by a Wrongdoer
In a civil case, a person’s actions are not judged on whether they were illegal, but instead on whether they constituted negligence, reckless or malicious behavior, or other fault. If those actions are found to constitute fault, and if those actions caused injury to another person, then the wrongdoer (called a tortfeasor in civil liability cases) may be held liable to the injured party for the payment of money to compensate for the injuries and other damages caused.
Often these damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In the case of death, various damages for the wrongful death may be awarded, including compensation for loss of life, loss of economic support, conscious pain and suffering before death, and other damages. If it can be established that the wrongdoer acted with intent to harm, or with such recklessness that malice can be inferred, he or she may be liable for punitive damages that are intended to punish the wrongful conduct and deter similar conduct in the future. In many cases, punitive damages exceed the combined total of the other damages (called compensatory damages) that are awarded to the injured party.
Even if a Driver Avoids Jail Time for Causing Injury, an Injured Party May Still Have a Claim
Exoneration in a criminal case does not relieve the at fault driver from civil liability for causing an accident. In fact, criminal proceedings and civil cases are entirely different types of matters, with differing standards of proof, and often involve different courts, different judges and different juries. Even if a person wins his or her criminal case and avoids jail time, that person could still be ordered to pay damages to an injured party.
An example of this is the case of O.J. Simpson. Accused of killing his ex-wife and her companion, Mr. Simpson was found not guilty by a jury in his criminal case. However, the jury in a civil case found Mr. Simpson liable for wrongful death and ordered him to pay $33.5 million to the family of those killed.
Injured in a Car Accident? Your Time to Pursue a Claim is Limited. Contact Us Today.
If you have been injured, or if a loved one was killed, in a car accident, and even if the driver was not accused of a crime or avoided jail time, contact Attorney Group today. We can evaluate your case, and if you have a claim, we can connect you with an experienced car accident attorney who can assist you as you attempt to recover the compensation to which you may be entitled. Our consultations are free, confidential and without obligation. In many states, the time you have to pursue a claim is limited, so contact Attorney Group today.