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Fatal accident without criminality may allow monetary claim

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There is some controversy over whether a taxi driver should have received criminal charges for the December accident in New York City where his cab killed a 22-year-old woman at W. 51st Street and Eighth Avenue. Some criticism has been leveled toward Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for not bringing charges. However, the family of the victim who died in that fatal accident are nonetheless entitled to bring a civil claim for wrongful death monetary damages against the driver and the taxi cab company.

The difference between what it takes to prove a criminal case for vehicular manslaughter or a similar crime and what is required to establish civil liability to the victim's family is quite substantial. It takes evidence of something that goes beyond mere negligence to prove a criminal intent sufficient for a vehicular homicide conviction. However, to establish a wrongful death claim for money damages under the civil law, it only takes what is called a preponderance of the evidence.

That means that the plaintiff in a civil case for personal injury or death damage only has to show that it was more likely than not that the defendant was the negligent cause of the accident. This is sometimes illustrated by plaintiff attorneys as a two-sided scale tipping "ever so slightly" to one side. When that slight tipping is toward the existence of negligence and causation, then the defendant will be found liable to pay damages.

One can see that this is not a relatively tough burden to meet. Victims of negligent drivers in New York who are seriously injured, or the families of those deceased victims, can best pursue a claim for monetary damages by consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. Regardless of whether the defendant was reckless enough to be convicted of a criminal act arising out of a fatal accident, injured victims are well advised to act quickly to pursue their claim for monetary damages.

Source: streetsblog.org, "NYC Drivers Killed at Least 16 People on Sidewalks and in Buildings in 2015", Brad Aaron, Jan. 7, 2016

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