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Charges in car accidents can be upgraded if the victim dies

Depending on the circumstances surrounding an accident, the party or parties believed to be at fault could face criminal charges. However, charges associated with car accidents can be amended if one or more of the victims passes away. The charges against a man who remained in custody in the New Jersey township of Ocean at last report were recently upgraded after the victim in a pedestrian vs. car accident died.

Reports indicate that, when the crash occurred, the 33-year-old driver in custody failed to stop even though the victim was trapped in the windshield of his vehicle. The 61-year-old man was taken to an area hospital. Despite the efforts of medical personnel, he succumbed to the injuries he suffered approximately two days after the incident. Prior to his death, the driver was charged with DUI causing serious bodily injury and for failing to stop.

However, now that the pedestrian has died, prosecutors have upgraded those charges to homicide by vehicle and fleeing from a fatal accident. The victim's family will most likely take an interest in the outcome of the criminal charges. In addition to the charges being upgraded, the pedestrian's family may exercise its right to file a wrongful death claim against the driver.

Any conviction secured by New Jersey prosecutors may help establish negligence in a civil action filed by the family. Proof of negligence is required before any award of damages may be considered in claims filed in car accidents. Since the burden of proof is stricter in criminal proceedings than in civil court, a conviction related to the accident could bolster the family's claim.

Source: santacruzsentinel.com, "Man accused in fatal crash faces upgraded charges", Nov. 19, 2014

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