When you get behind the wheel of your car, you likely don’t intend to cause a fatal car accident and you certainly don’t intend to kill anyone. However, accidents can and do happen. Sometimes, car accidents are fatal. If you caused a fatal car accident, you need to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. You should also try to put together a file that includes details about the incident, such as what you remember and witness statements.
One of the concerns over what to do when you receive a citation that your driving caused death is whether you’re going to face criminal charges. In some situations, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter or other crimes depending on your state.
However, not all accidents that result in the death of another person result in criminal charges. If your attorney is able to prove that it was truly an accident, then you might be charged with reckless endangerment or less severe.
District Attorney Decisions
In most situations, the district attorney will look at the evidence to determine what charges will be filed. There are usually a few considerations that determine how this decision is made:
- If the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- If the driver was paying attention to the rules of the road
- Factors outside of the driver’s control, such as weather or road conditions
Even if you’re not charged with a felony or a significant crime, the victim’s family has every right to file a claim against you for a wrongful death. This claim is usually handled in civil court. If the decision is made against you, then you would need to pay the settlement amount to the family. Most of the time, your insurance company will pay up to a certain amount as long as your policy was current at the time of the accident.
If the victim in the accident could have filed a personal injury claim against you, then the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the victim in order to pay for funeral expenses and to support family members left behind.
Many car accidents occur because of distracted driving or the reckless behavior of a driver. If you fall into one of these categories and cause a fatal car accident, then you would be responsible for the death of the victim. However, an attorney will often look at all of the parties involved to see if there was someone else who could be held responsible for the accident.
Mechanical failures could be the cause of an accident. This could be anything from a tire that suddenly lost air to a severe mechanical issue that resulted in a loss of power to the car. If there was a mechanical issue that played a role in the accident, then the manufacturer of the car or the part could be held liable for the death. Mechanics could also be held responsible if they recently examined the car and discovered an issue that wasn’t repaired.
If you were served too much alcohol by a bartender and got behind the wheel, then the bartender could be held responsible. Keep in mind that you would also be held partially responsible because you made the decision to drink and drive, but the bartender should have stopped serving you when seeing that you were not able to safely drive.
If you’re deemed responsible for the accident, then your finances will be examined in order to determine how much money the victim’s family will receive. The amount of insurance coverage you have can also play a role in the value of the settlement as well. If you need to talk to a lawyer about your next steps, many offer free consultations.