Pedestrian accidents can occur for many reasons: the driver’s impaired vision, lack of focus, or even taking substances while driving. When someone is hurt—or worse, killed—in a pedestrian accident, the police will investigate the incident and determine whether or not to bring criminal charges against the driver. Regardless of this decision, individuals may still want to bring a civil lawsuit against the driver. However, there are important distinctions between a criminal case and a civil, wrongful death lawsuit when someone has been killed in a pedestrian accident in Washington, D.C.
Recently in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Northwest D.C., a woman was hit and killed while crossing the street. According to a local news report, the 24-year-old was crossing a road when she was struck and became trapped under the vehicle. While she was pulled from underneath the car and rushed to the local hospital, she passed away. Police are still investigating the incident, and it is unclear at this time whether the driver of the vehicle will face charges.
In accidents like the one described above, a personal representative of a person killed in a pedestrian accident can bring a lawsuit against the responsible individual—even if criminal charges are not filed. Although there are many similarities between a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal case stemming from the same accident, there are critical differences individuals should be aware of.
For example, there are different outcomes in successful wrongful death and criminal cases. In a criminal case, the prosecutor—the state or federal government attorney bringing the case—will often ask for either jail time and/or monetary punishment. However, in a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased’s spouse or other close relatives will be given damages—in the form of monetary compensation—for their loss. These damages are paid for by the defendant.
While some states allow anyone to bring the wrongful death lawsuit in civil courts, like the deceased’s family members, Washington, D.C. requires the executor of the individual’s estate to file the lawsuit. If criminal charges are filed, the state or federal government, and not loved ones, bring the charges and prove the defendant’s wrongdoing.
What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Unlike in a criminal case, where the state must prove the accused was responsible for the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” in civil lawsuits, the plaintiff must only show the defendant was liable for the incident “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is a much easier bar to clear. It is important to note that if criminal charges are brought against a person, a wrongful death lawsuit can still be brought against the responsible party.
Because it can be difficult to navigate the wrongful death lawsuit process—especially, if criminal charges have been filed as well—individuals in this situation should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
Contact a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you know was recently injured or killed in a Washington, D.C. pedestrian accident, contact the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen as soon as possible. Our team of attorneys has experience navigating various types of personal injury cases: car accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, and dog bites, among others. We consider it our main objective to obtain financial compensation for those with injuries that were caused by others. To schedule a free, initial consultation, contact us at 800-654-1949 today.