Even though criminal and civil proceedings are vastly different when it comes to motor vehicle crashes, any information garnered from a criminal proceeding could be useful in a New Jersey civil court. Keeping track of the progression of criminal charges in car accidents plays an important role. For example, admissions of guilt as part of a plea bargain could help establish negligence in a civil proceeding.
For instance, a 46-year-old man recently pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and death by auto in the death of a motorcyclist on Dec. 13, 2015. As he headed east, he made a left turn into the path of the motorcycle. The 51-year-old New Jersey man attempted to avoid colliding with the car, but he fell off his motorcycle and crashed into the back of the car. He died at the scene from the injuries he suffered in that impact.
The investigation revealed that the blood alcohol level of the driver of the car was over twice the legal limit of .08 at the time of the crash. In exchange for his guilty plea, the state will recommend to the court that he be sentenced to five years in prison, and that he must serve a minimum of 85 percent of that sentence before being eligible for parole. His sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for March 10.
As would be the case in other fatal car accidents, his guilty pleas could provide evidence of negligence in a civil action. Successfully establishing that a death was caused by or contributed to another party's negligence opens up the possibility of being awarded the damages sought in the claim. Any restitution from such an award could help a family recoup at least some of the financial losses caused by the premature and sudden death of a loved one.
Source: Westfield, NJ Patch, "Drunk Driver Admits Killing Motorcyclist In Union County Crash: Prosecutor", Alexis Tarrazi, Jan. 24, 2017