Last Friday night, three men were killed and another one seriously injured in a hit and run in Sacramento, California. The fatal crash apparently happened just after 3:30 a.m. at the intersection of Central Parkway and Cosumnes River Boulevard. Local residents say that the intersection is particularly dangerous and that this is not the first accident to happen at the intersection. The two vehicles, a Lincoln and an Acura, collided in the middle of the intersection when one of the drivers apparently failed to stop. The vehicles collided with such force that both vehicles were thrown into a field in the northeast corner of the intersection. The force of the collision then caused the Acura to catch fire trapping two of the four occupants inside. The remaining two men were found outside of the vehicle with one being pronounced dead at the scene and the other being transported to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. The fatally injured men were identified as Gregory Valenzuela (22), Raoul Perez (23) and Manuel Ruiz (24). The driver of the Lincoln fled the scene of the accident but was later identified as Omar Carrasco (25). Carrasco was ultimately arrested later in the day when he sought medical treatment at a nearby hospital and now faces charges of felony hit and run.
While the investigation into this accident is still ongoing, it raises a number of questions regarding accidents that also have a criminal component to them. One of the biggest questions being if you are involved in an accident and the driver of the other car is arrested, where does that leave you with regard to any compensation that you might be entitled to for your injuries? Many people are under the impression that a choice has to be made – either the person faces criminal charges or you can sue him in a personal injury lawsuit. The truth is that you do not need to make a choice. Criminal charges for something such as hit and run are completely separate from a personal injury lawsuit. “There is no reason that you cannot proceed immediately with a personal injury lawsuit regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed” according to personal injury attorney Emery Ledger of Ledger & Associates in California. It is not necessary to wait for the outcome of any criminal charges to proceed, or even settle, a personal injury lawsuit.
Additionally, if criminal charges have been filed, it is not necessary to your personal injury suit that the driver be convicted on those charges. The burden of proof for a criminal case is a higher burden – beyond a reasonable doubt – than the burden in a civil personal injury lawsuit. The burden for your personal injury lawsuit is “beyond a preponderance of the evidence”. What this means to you is that even if the driver is not found guilty in his criminal case, he can still be found negligent in a personal injury case, says Emery Ledger of Ledger & Associates. However, it may help your personal injury case if he is ultimately found guilty in the criminal case so your best bet is to discuss with your personal injury attorney how to best proceed when there is also an open criminal proceeding.
If you have any further questions about your rights with regard to personal injury lawsuits, please feel free to contact Emery Ledger at Ledger & Associates – 1-800-300-0001 or online at www.ledgerlaw.com