When a driver causes a death in a traffic accident, there can be two layers of liability, civil and criminal. Civil liability means the driver or his or her insurer must pay compensation to the family of the individual killed; civil liability may be incurred even if the driver’s conduct was not outside the bounds of the law. If the driver did violate the law in causing the crash, criminal charges (with penalties for conviction like prison time or probation) could be imposed in addition to and distinct from the remedies in the civil case.
A Chicago teen who caused an accident leading to the death of a 5-year-old girl has been embroiled in both a civil and a criminal case recently.
The 18-year-old driver had allegedly huffed a cleaning product to get high before driving a Lexus automobile over a curb, onto the sidewalk and into a group of people that included the little girl who was killed. According to police, toxicology reports revealed an ingredient contained in air cleaning products in the driver’s blood, and such an air cleaning can was found in the Lexus after the crash. The accident occurred on Labor Day.
The civil suit against the driver was just settled for an undisclosed amount, according to news sources. This means the victim’s family will get monetary compensation for their loss – a small comfort, to be sure, but one that can help get families through a time of intense grief following a fatal accident. The criminal trial of the driver is now set for September; the outcome of the criminal case will not effect the recently reached civil settlement.
Source: NBC Chicago, Accused Teen Huffer Settles Fatal Crash Suit, June 11, 2013