Circumstances of every car accident are unique, but if someone dies as a result of another driver’s negligence, there are times when that person may go to jail. Some examples include reckless driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and leaving the scene of an accident – “hit and run.” Even though these examples have criminal components attached to them, there are other events that could lead to jail time after a car accident takes someone’s life. Determinations of fault will need to be made based on the negligence laws of the jurisdiction where the accident took place because laws vary from state to state. After “negligence” has been determined, legal outcomes may include monetary awards, suspensions of licenses, fines, community service and jail time. Negligence must be proven after the four main elements such as duty, breach of duty, causation and damages are addressed.
Fault and damages.
Generally speaking, the driver who was found to cause the accident will be responsible for damages above those the insurance settlements will handle in both “at fault” and “no fault” states, although in both cases certain criteria will be met regarding caps (by jurisdictional statute) on the amounts of a settlement and the types of damages that will be covered, including compensatory amounts regarding costs related to the accident and/or punitive actions regarding punishment for the events of the accident, such as fines and possible jail time in addition to insurance settlements. If the “at fault” driver does not have insurance, or the policy limits are lower than the costs associated with the accident, then they will be personally liable for paying the damages involved.
There are times when the person causing the accident is the one who died. In these cases, their insurance will have to kick in to pay damages and speak to devastating or long-lasting injuries to the surviving driver(s). There are also times when the person who dies is a passenger in the car of the negligent driver, and the same case holds true regarding their death. It is about fault and the assessment of damages based on proven negligence.
Depending on the events of the accident, both drivers could be at fault, or there could be outside factors like weather and vehicle malfunction including a third party that may absorb some of the financial burden of negligence, but further removed from the possibility of jail time in that instance.
Either driver could have been 100% responsible for the accident and this could include the driver who passed away, the driver of a vehicle where a passenger passed away, or the other driver. Simply because a person survives and someone else dies does not mean they are at fault.
If the insured is someone other than the driver, but was covered under your insurance policy, such as your teenager, or a person you loaned the car to, your insurance policy will usually cover the claim, up to the policy limits. Your car insurance rates may or may not go up as a result. If this was your first claim, you may not see any difference in the amount you pay for car insurance but the possibility of jail time as the insured is removed from you as the policy holder. If the party that was driving your vehicle is found to be responsible, they will be liable to costs above those your insurance has covered.
Hire an attorney.
When someone dies after a car accident, it is imperative to find an experienced attorney who understands the negligence laws of the state. If you were involved in a fatal car accident, resist the urge to apologize or blame yourself at the scene or anytime thereafter. Investigations and data analyses will need to be undertaken to determine the percentages of fault, and will greatly impact whether or not jail time will part of the outcome.