Motorist Convicted in 2016 Passing Death of Cyclist
A man was convicted by a Sonoma County Jury of vehicular manslaughter in the death of a cyclist who was participating in the Tour de Fuzz charity ride. A previous jury was unable to come to a unanimous verdict as 2 of the 12 voted to acquit.
The issue at both trials was whether the 75-year-old driver was criminally negligent when he passed another car and rode by two cyclists who fell of their bikes. One of them, a 55-year-old woman was seriously injured and then died a few hours later at the hospital.
The prosecutor and defense both argued about the amount of contact—if any—between the vehicle and the cyclists. However, under the law, no contact was required to find him guilty of a negligent homicide, rather the jury needed to decide if his actions were negligent. It’s unlikely that the man will spend any time in jail as his health is deteriorating.
Criminal vs Civil Liability
When someone is convicted of a crime in an automobile accident, the victim sometimes wonders what effect the criminal trial will have on the civil trial. For example, if a motorist is found guilty of a DUI that caused serious injury to the victim, do they have to bother with a civil trial to determine if the motorist will have to pay compensation?
This is a valid question because if you are guilty of a DUI, and your impaired driving caused injury, then it stands to reason that you are liable for civil damages as well. However, this isn’t true. In fact, California law actually says that a criminal conviction that came from an auto accident can’t be used to automatically determine fault in a civil personal injury case.
Why? Because the two court systems are separate and they have different legal standards, and to determine civil liability, you have to have a civil trial. In some ways, this can benefit a victim. Let’s say the motorist was found not guilty of a criminal charge in a crash that injured someone, then should this mean that the victim should automatically lose their personal injury case?
What Should I do if I’m Injured in a Crash Where the Driver Broke the Law?
The best thing to do is to talk to an attorney who understands personal injury law. The insurance company might use a not guilty verdict as a way to diminish your case against the driver you hit you. Don’t let this happen to you.
At Bay Area Bicycle Law, we are the only law firm in northern California that deals exclusively in bicycle law, and we offer a free consultation where you can ask whatever questions you have about your case and your injuries. Call us today at (415) 466 8717 or click here to contact us online. If you still wonder if we’re the right firm for you or even if you need an attorney, read this this for help answering these questions.