Earlier this week, a woman who was responsible for the death of a motorcyclist pled guilty to negligent driving and was required to pay $500 for her role in the accident. Evidently, back in 2013, the woman was texting as she left the parking lot of her employer, telling her mother that she didn’t feel well. Two minutes later, she pulled out onto a busy highway and cut off a motorcyclist, causing him to run into the side of her car and fly off the bike.
The motorcyclist was killed in the accident, but according to a report by WBALTV, the driver of the car is facing only a $500 penalty. She was initially charged with six offenses: negligent manslaughter by motor vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter, reckless driving, negligent driving, failure to yield the right of way, and text messaging while driving. The woman struck a deal with prosecutors where she plead guilty to a low-level offense in exchange for their dropping all the other charges.
The family of the victim was sorely disappointed by the especially lenient sentence handed down by the judge. However, the judge had little discretion to do anything else, since it was the prosecution who offered the woman the plea bargain. The family told reporters that they just wanted a jury to hear what happened and to let the jury decide. They didn’t care whether she was found guilty or not but just wanted the case to go to trial.
Civil Actions After Criminal Acquittals or Plea Bargains
The result of the criminal suit against the driver was surely disappointing for the family of the victim. However, that is not their only source of recompense for what they have suffered. They can also file a wrongful death action against the woman, alleging that the death of their loved one was caused by the woman’s negligent actions.
In some cases, a civil trial in the wake of a criminal trial can be helpful, especially when the criminal trial results in a guilty verdict. However, when there is an acquittal or a plea to a lesser offense, the result of the criminal trial is of less help to the accident victim or the victim’s family. This is because, after an acquittal or a plea to a lesser offense, the plaintiff cannot point to the result and claim it shows the defendant’s guilt.
However, merely because a defendant has been acquitted or pled to a lesser offense does not mean that a civil cause of action is futile. Indeed, many civil cases are won after a criminal acquittal due to the difference in the burden of proof. In criminal actions, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in civil action the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant is liable by a preponderance of the evidence. While the difference may seem like semantics, it is anything but.
Are You In Need of a Maryland Motorcycle Accident Attorney?
If you have recently been involved in a Maryland motorcycle accident that you believe was the fault of the other driver, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. To find out more about the laws in Maryland that allow for innocent accident victims to recover, contact a dedicated Maryland motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, we have a team of dedicated lawyers ready to meet with you about your case. Click here, or call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free initial consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Fatal Motorcycle Accident on I-95 Claims One Young Man’s Life, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published May 5, 2014.
Woman Sentenced in Intoxicated Driving Accident that Resulted in Double Amputation, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published April 23, 2014.