Much of Northern Nevada has been caught up in the recent trial of a man accused of murdering a woman by running into her with his car in a fit of drunken road rage. The story is shocking and bizarre, but it helps illustrate an important point about the legal process after someone is injured by a drunk driver.
According to prosecutors, the 27-year-old woman and her fiancée were driving to her mother's house when the accused started tailgating behind them. When they stopped at the house and got out of their car, the accused stopped his minivan behind them in the driveway and then suddenly accelerated, crushing the woman against the side of the house. She died four days later.
While the man admits that he killed the 27-year-old woman, his attorney argues that it was a drunken car accident and not murder. The man claims that he had been drinking heavily following the death of a family member. His lawyer said the man thought his car was in reverse when he hit the accelerator and drove into the woman.
When someone is injured or killed by a drunk driver, the injured or their families look to the criminal justice system to hold the drunk driver accountable. Certainly, the criminal justice system plays an important role in maintaining the public's sense of order and safety. However, that system isn't really designed with the needs of the injured or their families foremost in mind.
A civil lawsuit can also serve the cause of justice in a different way. A personal injury lawsuit - or in the case of a fatal accident, a wrongful death lawsuit - requires a lower standard of proof than a criminal case. This means that it can be easier for the injured or their families to prevail against a negligent driver than it would for state prosecutors. These cases also allow plaintiffs to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and other monetary damages that come with a terrible accident. Even after a criminal case ends in a not guilty verdict, it's possible to hold the same defendant liable in a civil case.
A Nevada attorney with experience in personal injury law can help the injured or their families to understand how the law may apply to their unique set of circumstances.
Source: Nevada Appeal, "Desiree Bragg's killing was a drunken accident, lawyer says," Geoff Dornan, Feb. 24, 2014