Sometimes accidents are the result of events beyond our control. A car or truck veers off the road into oncoming traffic because its driver suffers a heart attack, or an Interstate pile up takes place due to a pocket of dense fog that fills an unseen dip in the road. Although tragic, these incidents are acts of God, and we can hold no one liable for them.
In a number of other fatal car and truck accidents, however, the death of innocent people occurs when a driver is negligent. This situation is something from which plaintiffs can seek remedy by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in the civil court in Philadelphia.
The following accident is a good case in point. A box truck driven by a young man broadsided a vehicle making a legal left-hand turn at an intersection when the car failed to stop for the red light. The driver of the car was taken into custody on charges of felony DUI after police determined that his breath alcohol content level was .12, well above the legal limit of .08. What makes the situation worse is the driver's license had been suspended earlier that year for a previous DUI incident.
According to the police report, the defendant was driving at an unsafe rate of speed as he approached the intersection. They noted skid marks on the road, and the eyewitness testimony confirms that the car "appeared out of nowhere." The driver of the other car, an elderly women, was taken to the hospital with a broken collarbone, but her son, who was in front passenger seat, suffered severe head trauma. He was airlifted to a medical center for treatment but pronounced dead at the scene.
The victim had graduated college four months earlier and secured a good job working for a state healthcare agency. A roadside vigil formed that night, with friends and family gathering to express their shock and anger at the news of his untimely death. The family announced that they would be pursuing a wrongful death claim in the civil court and that they would use some of those funds to start a scholarship fund in the victim's name.
When an individual has been killed in a car accident through another person's negligence, the court allows two different forms of justice. One is through the criminal court, which will hear the evidence in the case, make its decision, and give an appropriate sentence if the defendant is found guilty. A guilty sentence can bring catharsis, but it will not pay the victim's medical bills or recoup the family for lost wages. Moreover, felony DUI and DUI manslaughter cases are sometimes overturned on technicalities, as one error in police procedure may be cause for dismissal.
Wrongful death cases use much of the same evidence compiled for the criminal case but have a lower standard of proof, so they are easier to win. In order for a wrongful death case to be successful, however, it must generally do the following:
· be filed within two years of the car accident.
· make a claim of negligence.
· use expert witnesses to determine the amount of the award being sought.
The victim's family in this case was smart: They took action right away. Having a personal injury lawyer working for you while the criminal case is underway allows the attorney to play an active role in finding evidence and tracking down witnesses in the case. This ongoing involvement in the case not only strengthens the wrongful death suit but also insulates the family from being victimized again by any possible negative outcome in the criminal case. It gives them something positive to hope for.