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Criminal charges vs. civil lawsuits in car accident cases

After a careless driver kills someone in an accident, criminal charges can hold the driver accountable. The sense of justice that comes from these charges is good for the community as a whole, but the fact is that criminal charges don’t necessarily help all the victims.

People injured in an accident may want to see the driver responsible face justice, but they also need help with their medical bills, lost wages and other damages. Family members of a person killed in this type of accident need help with their own damages, such as the loss of their loved one’s future income and support.

To recover compensation for these losses, the injured and their families must file a civil lawsuit.

A recent New York accident helps explain why.

The accident

According to the New York State Police, a man faces manslaughter charges following an accident in which a BMW sportscar crashed into the rear of another vehicle, sending both cars off a Nassau County road. The BMW overturned and crashed into a utility box.

A passenger in the BMW was killed, and the driver was injured. The driver of the second car suffered injuries that were described as not life-threatening.

Police said the BMW driver was intoxicated at the time of the crash. He now faces multiple criminal charges including vehicular manslaughter.


Almost everyone can agree that a reckless driver who causes a fatal accident should face a criminal penalty. But while the criminal case is moving through the justice system, the victims of these accidents are left largely on their own. They may face enormous medical bills, and they may be unable to work as they recover. After a serious injury, a victim may be unable to work for a living. On top of these losses, they also face noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

A personal injury lawsuit is meant to help the injured recover compensation for these and other damages. In the case of a fatal accident, a wrongful death lawsuit is meant to help the family members of the victim recover compensation for their losses.

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