New Hampshire is receiving national attention after a former Fortune 500 executive is responsible for two people's deaths after attempting to take his own life. The Associated Press reports that Robert Dellinger intentionally drove his pickup truck across a highway median and into the air in an effort to commit suicide. He did not succeed but instead hit another vehicle. The 29 year old man and 24 year old woman, as well as their unborn baby, died from the injuries they suffered in the crash which the medical examiner descried as appearing similar to a plane crash.
Now Dellinger is facing serious charges for reckless manslaughter. If convicted, he could face 15 to 30 years of incarceration for this crime. However, prosecutors are still deciding whether or not to elevate his charges to those of second-degree murder. Second-degree murder charges could arise because prosecution believes that a jury could be convinced that his actions showed "extreme indifference" for human life. There are many ways that a person can attempt suicide. The fact that Dellinger chose one that can and did cause injury to innocent people may convince a jury that he is guilty of murder. The senior Assistant Attorney General is still working and collecting evidence in order to decide what this charge will be.
The article states that:
Veteran defense attorney and University of New Hampshire law school professor Albert "Buzz" Scherr said he has no doubt prosecutors are considering elevating the charges to murder, but hastened to add there's little precedent for a case like Dellinger's.
This case is also interesting in terms of personal injury law. Drivers who intentionally or unintentionally cause a serious accident that needs to injury or death can be held responsible by the victims for compensation. Victims and victims' families may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages from the inability of victims to work and pain and suffering. The families of the two victims that were killed in this accident may be entitled to compensation for the loss of their loved ones as well as pain and suffering.
In addition, the victims' families may even push for punitive damages. Punitive damages are often awarded to defendants who have been injured by a corporation or business. They are not compensation for the victim's loss but rather serve as a way to punish the offender for their actions. If this is the case, the families just may be awarded punitive damages as a way to discourage others from reckless driving or attempting suicide in the same manner as Dellinger.
There is no information yet on what the victims' families are doing in terms of civil suits. It will be interesting to see if what kind of personal injury civil case they choose to pursue, if any. Likely, they will wait to see what he will be charged with and the outcome of his criminal case. Regardless of whether he is found guilty or murder or not, he can still be held liable for the loss of life of the couple in civil court.