When a fatal accident occurs, it is fairly common for two trials to take place – a criminal trial and a civil trial. The criminal trial determines whether the liable party should be subjected to criminal punishments, such as jail time. The civil trial determines whether the liable party should be forced to pay for the physical and emotional damage they have caused.
The two trials are separate because they have very different standards for determining liability. In general, it is much easier to prove that a person is liable in a civil case than in a criminal case.
A criminal case is making waves in Fremont, Ohio, this month after a man filed a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea in response to vehicular homicide charges. The plea seeks to prove that the man’s history of mental illness precludes him from criminal liability.
The 24-year-old man is accused of killing a 77-year-old married couple from Toledo on Thanksgiving night. Police say the man was driving over 125 miles per hour when his car struck the couple’s minivan. The case was well-publicized, receiving substantial media attention.
The man’s attorney did not go into any further detail into his client’s mental health issues. The criminal case still has a very long way to go before it can be determined whether the 24-year-old was criminally liable.
Civil liability is held as a completely separate matter from criminal liability. Even if a person is found to be not guilty of criminal charges, they can still be found liable in a personal injury lawsuit. In cases such as this one, the victims’ family often files wrongful death claims against the negligent party, usually seeking compensation for lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses and emotional pain and suffering.
Source: WXIX-TV, “Man pleads not guilty to charges after Ohio crash” No author given, Dec. 26, 2013