In our DUI news blog, we brought you the story of Haleigh Davis Fine, who has taken responsibility for a fatal crash in April, resulting the death of Edward Kilvin. This story was reported on Channel 2 News.
While the driver now faces charges of second-degree vehicular homicide and failure to maintain lane, the driver might face more legal troubles due to the accident. Criminal law isn't the only thing to think about when one gets into a car accident.
And when the accident results in death and a criminal jury finds the party guilty, we're looking at personal injury lawsuits, specifically for wrongful death.
Here's the thing -- distracted driving is dangerous. Everyone knows that and to be talking on a cellphone while on the road is more than just negligent. It's pretty reckless.
And reckless behavior is fodder for a lawsuit.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has stated, according to Channel 2 News, that nearly 3,000 people died in 2011 in distracted driving accidents.
What's worse for Haleigh Fine is that police policy mandates that they check cellphone records in these cases, according to the Milton Herald. Once they do that, they pretty much have evidence laid out that she was doing something she shouldn't have been doing when the accident occurred.
They have more or less established fault.
Now, whether a criminal jury finds her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt won't affect a civil jury finding her liable by a preponderance of the evidence. Those are two different legal standards.
And in a wrongful death suit, the jury will use the latter standard.
A wrongful death lawsuit might seek damages for the financial support the victim's family will lose out on. It might also seek loss of consortium and even punitive damages.
For Haleigh Fine, her legal woes are just beginning. But they serve as a reminder to all not to drive while on the phone.