When someone causes a serious accident due to negligence, they face two separate sets of charges. The first, criminal charges, arise when a law is broken. In these situations, the negligent party is a defendant and the state is the plaintiff. The other type of charge, civil charges, occurs when the victim or victim's family files a suit against the negligent party for damages they have incurred due to the accident. In these situations, the negligent party is again the defendant and the victim or victim's family is the plaintiff. In New Hampshire, a person who was injured or killed due to someone else's negligence may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and other expenses caused by the injury.
When a defendant is convicted in a criminal case, they will face misdemeanor or felony charges, fines, jail time and other penalties. In civil cases, however, the victim is awarded monetary damages. The amount of the damages depends on many factors including the severity of the injuries and the cost of the victim's medical bills and other expenses.
The Claims Journal is reporting a story about a 30-year-old man who was recently convicted for vehicular assault and second-degree assault after reading a text message while driving. His inattention to the road caused his car to drift across two lanes and into oncoming traffic. His vehicle hit two other cars and led to a teenage boy suffering a traumatic brain injury. New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Carol Ann Conboy had this to say about the accident:
“Looking down to check a text message for the length of time it took to cross over the median, enter into the oncoming travel lane, nearly hit one vehicle and hit two others without braking or attempting to evade collision was a gross deviation from the conduct of a law-abiding citizen,”
In addition to the 2.5 to 7 years of jail time that the defendant faces for his charges, he may also be held liable for damages to the victims in a civil case. Generally, civil and criminal cases are not related to each other and, in some cases, a defendant can be found not guilty of criminal charges and still be convicted in the civil. A criminal case can affect a civil case when a court convicts an individual of criminal negligence, however. In a civil case, this could be used as evidence proving the defendant's negligence as the cause of the injuries.
This case is a good example of how criminal charges can be helpful in a civil case. Though the article does not mention whether the teenaged boy's family is seeking damages, they would have a good chance at winning that case. Justice Conboy's comments alone may be enough to prove negligence. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident caused by negligent driver in New Hampshire, contact a personal injury attorney right away to find out about your rights to seek compensation.