Criminal Charges Filed in North Carolina Truck Wreck Case – How it Could Affect Possible Litigation

jail cellA North Carolina woman was killed in a truck wreck earlier this week when a dump truck struck her vehicle from behind, causing her to hit the back of a large tractor-trailer that was traveling just ahead of her. The woman’s vehicle was reportedly destroyed in the collision (or, more accurately, the series of collisions), and she was killed.

Now, the driver of the dump truck is reportedly facing criminal charges of failure to reduce speed and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. Information has also surfaced to the effect that the dump truck driver had been driving recklessly during the hours before the crash, according to 911 calls from motorists who phoned in to report him.

Truck Accident Litigation Under North Carolina Law

Although there have been no reports of a lawsuit being filed as a result of the chain-reaction wreck, it is possible that the woman’s family could file a wrongful death claim against the truck driver and possibly his employer at some point in the future. In order to be successful in a wrongful death lawsuit, a claimant must be able to prove that the defendant caused the death of the claimant’s family member by negligence or other wrongful act.

To prove negligence, the claimant must be able to show that the defendant owed a duty of care, that this duty was breached, that damages resulted, and that the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the damages claimed by the party filing the lawsuit. Possible damages in a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit include medical expenses resulting from the accident, funeral expenses of the decedent, the deceased person’s pain and suffering prior to death (if he or she initially survived the accident but later passed away), the lost income of the decedent, and the loss of society and companionship suffered by the decedent’s relatives.

How a Criminal Conviction Affects a Truck Accident Lawsuit

All of the elements of a negligence case – including damages – must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. The burden of proof is on the party seeking to recover monetary compensation for his or her loved one’s death. A criminal conviction for conduct that allegedly caused a truck wreck goes a long way in establishing both the duty and a breach of duty by the defendant.

In addition to the damages stated above, there is also the possibility of an award of punitive damages if a wrongful death claimant is able to prove that the defendant acted in malice or through willful or wanton conduct. A criminal conviction can help bolster a family’s claim for punitive damages, but the mere fact that there was a conviction will not, in and of itself, result in punitive damages in a civil lawsuit.

A civil lawsuit for wrongful death damages is a separate thing entirely from the criminal case against the defendant. Although the criminal courts can assess fines, order jail time, and direct a defendant to pay restitution, all of these actions are designed to punish the defendant for his or her conduct rather than to compensate the victim of the crime (or his or her family in the case of a fatal accident) for damages.

Get Advice About a North Carolina Truck Accident

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident involving an 18-wheeler or another commercial truck, the experienced North Carolina truck accident lawyers at Nagle & Associates can help. Call us for an appointment at 888-841-7177. We handle cases throughout North Carolina.

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