All across the country, laws are in place to protect victims of negligence and their families. Sometimes, the laws are applied in criminal court and sometimes in civil court. In some cases, such as a recent one involving a fatal car accident in Massachusetts, a negligent party may end up spending time in both criminal and civil courts.
The accident occurred late in the evening in Nov. 2013. According to the police report, a man was traveling at an estimated 70 mph in an area with a posted speed limit of 45 mph. For some reason, the vehicle he was driving veered across the center line and smashed into a passenger car driven by a 64-year-old man, who died of the injuries he sustained in the accident.
The now-convicted driver admitted he had consumed two alcoholic drinks before the accident. At the time of his arrest, he was charged with felony vehicular homicide while under the influence. Massachusetts police originally believed him to be under the influence of two illegal substances, in addition to alcohol, based on the first blood tests performed at a hospital. However, his blood alcohol level was lower than the legal limit and it was later determined that the other substances were not a factor at the time of the collision.
As a result, the charges were reduced and the state extended a plea agreement that allowed for the dismissal of charges for traffic violations that he faced in conjunction with the accident. The man ended up being sentenced to two years in jail. The time he had already served, which was 343 days, was applied to the sentence. He was released and is being allowed to serve the rest of his sentence on probation. In addition, he lost his driver’s license for 15 years.
Even though the man has been sentenced for his role in the fatal car accident in criminal court, he could still face time in a Massachusetts civil courtroom. If the decedent’s family members choose to file a wrongful death claim for the loss of their loved one, he could be found negligent. A ruling of that sort could result in the family receiving compensation for their loved one’s end-of-life expenses and damages resulting from their loss.
Source: berkshireeagle.com, “R.I. man gets time served in fatal 2013 accident in Williamstown“, Andrew Amelinckx, Nov. 5, 2014