What Makes a Car Accident Criminal?
When a car accident occurs, it is important to report the accident to the police. While most accidents are not crime scenes, some crashes can lead to criminal charges. If you are proven to be negligent, you may have to pay for the other party’s damages.
Criminal cases are important because the other party can use criminal charges to boost a car accident claim. Even if you have not been convicted, the existence of these charges can bolster the other party’s civil lawsuit. Because of this, it is important to get professional legal advice following any car crash.
No matter where you live in the country, the police will decide if your crash is a criminal matter. They can also determine who is at fault following an accident. As a result, you should always call the police to report a crash. In California, you are legally obligated to report a crash within 10 days if it caused an injury or death. If you fail to report the accident, your license may be suspended.
What Makes a Car Accident a Criminal Offense?
Thankfully, most car crashes are not considered criminal offenses. Unless you are driving under the influence or leave the scene of the accident, you will most likely be able to avoid criminal charges. If you get in an accident in one of the following circumstances, you may end up being charged in a criminal court.
You Fled the Police
It is always a bad idea to run from the police. You may be found guilty of resisting arrest. If there was an accident, you could also get in trouble for leaving the scene of the crash. The best thing you can do is report the accident after it happens and remain at the scene until you are allowed to leave.
You Were Drinking or Using Drugs
In California, it is against the law to drive if your blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08 percent. It is also against the law to drive while using any drugs that may impair your driving ability. Unfortunately, more than 1,000 accident deaths involve alcohol in California each year. When it comes to driver fatalities, about half of the drivers had some kind of drug in their system.
If you are convicted of driving while you are intoxicated, the first offense can involve six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. After your second or third offense, you could be sentenced to up to a year in county jail. If you want to avoid jail time or high insurance payments, it is important to never drink and drive.
You Were Driving Recklessly
If you were engaged in reckless driving, you may end up charged with a criminal offense. This is especially true if reckless driving led to injuries or property damage. Reckless driving is when you disregard traffic laws or drive without caring for the safety of other people. For instance, excessive speeding and weaving between traffic are often considered types of reckless driving.
You Left the Scene of the Accident
Whether you are responsible for the accident or not, you must never leave the scene of the accident until you are allowed to go. Hit-and-run accidents can lead to criminal charges and fines. In some cases, people have been put behind bars for more than a decade because of hit-and-run crashes. At the very least, leaving the scene of the accident can be used against you during a car accident claim.
If a driver was irresponsible or dangerous, they could get charged with vehicular manslaughter. Depending on the case, vehicular manslaughter could be considered a misdemeanor or felony. Acting with gross negligence can lead to felony charges. Meanwhile, driving with ordinary negligence generally leads to misdemeanor charges.
Gross Negligence Versus Ordinary Negligence
If you are found negligent, it can affect the outcome of your lawsuit. Any kind of negligence means you are considered at fault for the accident. With gross negligence, you may end up with criminal charges as well.
Ordinary negligence means you breached your duty of care. Because of this breach, there were injuries, deaths, or property damage related to the crash. For instance, you may be negligent if you forgot to yield to oncoming traffic and caused a car accident. Many car crashes involve ordinary negligence.
With gross negligence, the driver must have acted with reckless disregard or extreme indifference. Basically, the negligent driver did not use reasonable care when operating their vehicle. As a result, there was an accident. For example, speeding through stop signs because you are late to work would be an example of gross negligence. A trucking company could also be guilty of gross negligence if it overloaded a truck to complete an order on time.
How Are Criminal and Civil Charges Different?
In the United States, there are two types of courtrooms. Your case can be tried in criminal or civil court. In a civil case, the plaintiff files the case. Often, civil cases have minimal police involvement.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil cases are decided based on a lower burden of proof. Unlike civil cases, a criminal case can lead to a jail or prison sentence.
With both types of cases, it is important to hire a good criminal lawyer or personal injury attorney. If you are considered at fault, it can lead to expensive court costs and potential jail time. More importantly, your personal injury lawyer might be able to help you get financial compensation for your losses if they can show that the other party is at fault.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney
Unless you are a skilled attorney, it is generally a good idea to hire a lawyer after you are in a car accident. Even if the other party’s car accident claim has no merit, they may still be able to make a strong argument in court. If you want to protect your financial health, you need the help of a talented personal injury attorney.
After a car crash, it is important to hire a personal injury attorney if you were not at fault for the accident. Most likely, the accident caused medical expenses, lost wages, physical injuries, and repair costs. If you were not responsible for the accident, your attorney can prove it in the courtroom and help you get compensation for your damages.
Filing a lawsuit allows you to recuperate your losses after a crash. Unfortunately, the American legal system can be difficult to navigate. If you do not know how to try a lawsuit in court, you will struggle to get justice after an accident. Your attorney can file legal cases with the court, build evidence, interview witnesses, and determine the best steps for your case.
A skilled lawyer knows about more than the mechanics of filing a case. They know how to navigate the legal system to achieve successful outcomes. If you have been injured because of a crash, you cannot afford to devote your time and energy to building a case. You have to focus on your physical, mental, and emotional healing. Fortunately, a skilled personal injury attorney can prepare a legal case for you, so you can focus on getting better.
No one has to deal with the pain and suffering of a car crash alone. If you have been harmed by a negligent driver, a personal injury lawyer might be able to help you recover some of your damages. At JT Legal Group, we have years of experience working with accident victims. To learn more about how we can help, schedule a free consultation with us today.