Auto Fatalities and Criminal Charges

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Joe Di Bartolomeo is a top rated personal injury lawyer helping Oregon and Washington families
Posted on Jan 31, 2015

Just recently, a Cornelius motorist was arrested for second-degree manslaughter, reckless driving and fourth-degree assault arising from injuries and death sustained in a January 4, 2015 motor vehicle collisionin Washington County, Oregon.

In this case, the arrest occurred almost a month after the collision. Police investigators had to question witnesses, and reconstruct the collision. After this investigation, police determined that the motorist was attempting to make a pass in a no-passing zone, and collided with another motorist head-on. Although there were no indications of drugs or alcoholinvolvement, police concluded that the motorist charged with manslaughter was driving well over the speed limit, in a reckless manner.the term "reckless" is a precise legal term, and generally refers to behavior that rises to the level of a blatant disregard of the safety of others.

Obviously, the family of the motorist killed in the collision is overwhelmed. Not only is this family dealing with the Victim's Assistance folks from the District Attorney office, but also is having to deal with pursuing a wrongful death claim against the motorist that was recently arrested. The wrongful death claim is a civil claim, and although it arises out of the same collision that resulted in criminal charges, the civil case moves forward separately from the criminal case. However, the two are connected.

In a criminal case like this, should the defendant be found guilty of any charge relating to the way he operated his car, then it would be impossible for this defendant to legally deny responsibility for causing injury or death to the other motorists. This is because the defendant, if found guilty, has legally been determined beyond a reasonable doubt to have acted negligently, even recklessly, in causing the death of the other motorists. In a civil case, the personal representative of the estate need only show that the defendant was negligent on a more likely than not basis, and caused the death of the other motorists.

There are also assault charges pending against this motorist. There are several different levels of criminal assault, and the degree or severity of the assault charge depends upon the behavior of the motorist charged with the crime, as well as the resulting damage or harm caused to the injured motorist.

Although it is too early to tell, most cases like this result in an agreed-upon plea arrangement, where the defendant agrees to plead to a charge, and in exchange, the prosecutor will recommend a sentence to the Court. The court may decide to accept or reject this arrangement. These cases will, however, frequently go to trial, depending upon the nature of the charges involved.