The legal system in Florida, as in most U.S. jurisdictions, is divided
into two key areas - civil law and criminal law. Our Panama City injury
lawyer practices in the civil courts, a system fully separate from but
closely related to the criminal courts. In this post, we look briefly
at the concept of vehicular homicide which is a criminal charge that has
particularly close ties to civil injury cases arising from Florida automobile
Vehicular Homicide Charges Follow Deadly PCB Crash
A car accident in Panama City Beach has led to vehicular homicide charges,
according to a WJHG report. Shortly after 4 PM on Saturday September 6,
police arrived at the scene of a crash that claimed a woman's life.
Police believe a 23 year-old man was driving west on Beach Drive when
he ran through a stop sign and hit a car heading north on Upas Street.
Florida Highway Patrol officers charged the 23 year-old with vehicular
homicide when the crash killed one of two occupants in the northbound vehicle.
The Law of Vehicular Homicide in Florida
In Florida, vehicular homicide is defined by Florida Statutes Section 782.071.
The criminal charge applies when a defendant drives recklessly, in a manner
deemed likely to kill or cause great physical injury, and kills another
person. Vehicular homicide is a felony and is considered more serious
if the defendant failed to give authorities pertinent information.
Beyond fines and incarceration, a court can order community service hours
in a trauma setting. Of particular importance for our purposes, the vehicular
homicide statute makes specific reference to the right to bring a civil
wrongful death claim for deaths caused by conducting violating the criminal statute.
Civil Versus Criminal Law
The Florida Bar provides an information sheet that discusses the difference
between criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases are brought by the government
accusing the defendant of a violation of law that amounts to a crime against
society. In contrast, civil cases are brought by an individual/entity/group
seeking money damages following a perceived wrong.
One of the most important distinctions between civil and criminal court
is the burden of proof, the standard by which the plaintiff needs to prove
the case in order to prevail. Given the "innocent until proven guilty"
principle and the fact that the defendant's liberty may be at risk,
the standard is higher in criminal court than in civil court.
Criminal plaintiffs must prevail "beyond a reasonable doubt"
while civil plaintiffs only need to win by a "preponderance of the
evidence" which means showing they have the stronger evidence. The
lighter standard means a civil case can succeed even if a criminal case
based on the same conduct has failed (ex. a wrongful death claim may prevail
even where a vehicular manslaughter case does not).
Civil Injury Lawyer in Panama City
If you have been hurt or lost a family member in an accident caused by
someone else's conduct, you should consult a civil injury lawyer regardless
of whether a criminal case is successful or even where a prosecutor declines
to file criminal charges. Don't wait for the outcome of criminal charges
to contact an injury lawyer.
Medical care, where relevant, should be the top priority but it is never
too early to call for legal advice. Contacting counsel as soon as possible
can help ensure evidence is preserved and memories are fresh. An initial
consultation with our Panama City car accident lawyer is always free and
most injury/wrongful death cases are handled on a contingent fee basis
so there is no charge for our services unless you recover money.
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