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Family of fatal crash victim must wait longer for verdict

Karns & Kerrison

The Rhode Island man who police say is responsible for his girlfriend's death in a car accident has withdrawn his no contest plea with the result that the case may go to trial. The father of the deceased woman expressed disappointment that the case that the family has waited more than two years to see resolved will now carry on longer.

The accident happened on April 1, 2012. The man was driving his girlfriend's car in a high-speed chase with police, and his girlfriend was a passenger. Allegedly, he reached speeds of up to 100 mph before crashing the car. His girlfriend died, and he lost both his legs in the accident.

The man was charged with DUI with death resulting. He claims that he is confused due to being heavily medicated for pain, and as a result, he changed his plea just before he was about to be sentenced.

Whether or not the case goes to trial and regardless of its outcome, the family of the woman who died might have the option of filing a civil suit against the man. This would be separate from the criminal trial, and its outcome would be unrelated to that trial.

The burden of proof is lower in a civil case, and to win a wrongful death suit after a car accident like this one, the defendant's actions do not have to rise to the level of a criminal offense. An applicable negligent act would mean that the individual neglected a reasonable duty of care, which led to the death. Evidence of such things as speeding or intoxication might be sufficient for a civil lawsuit to be successful.

Source: WJAR, "Man withdraws plea in fatal crash", Susie Steimle, September 09, 2014

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