Tennessee car wreck nets criminal convictions; Civil claims next

Multiple legal issues have arisen from a fatal Tennessee car accident that took the lives of two pedestrians in Dec. 2011. As the criminal cases appear to be headed toward final resolutions, any related civil claims for wrongful death may be affected. The tragic car wreck occurred in the early morning after a couple left a holiday party -- with the man driving his girlfriend's car.

The evidence apparently indicated that the two pedestrians walked into the path of the oncoming vehicle, though further details were not disclosed. After the car wreck, a bystander reportedly suggested to the couple that they flee the scene of the crash, a suggestion with which they seem to have readily agreed. Thereafter, the couple and the bystander were all charged with crimes in connection with the tragedy. The driver was accused of vehicular manslaughter, as was the girlfriend for providing the keys to her car to her apparently drunk boyfriend, and the bystander was accused of acting as an accessory to a crime.

All three accused have apparently reached plea agreements with Tennessee prosecutors. The driver pleaded to recklessly causing a vehicular manslaughter (two counts) and will serve a year in jail. The girlfriend pleaded guilty to DUI and will serve a week in jail. The bystander has also reportedly reached a plea arrangement, though the details are not set to be disclosed until his next court proceeding in July.

As the dust settles over the criminal proceedings relating to the car wreck, the families of the deceased pedestrians have their own legal options. They may choose to proceed with wrongful death claims against any party whose negligence is deemed to have caused or contributed to the fatalities. The criminal convictions may be offered as evidence of liability in related civil proceedings. If liability is established to the satisfaction of a Tennessee civil court, it will proceed to adjudicate claims for financial damages.

Source: tennessean.com, "Bystander in hit-and-run to reach plea next month," Bobby Allyn, June 21, 2013

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