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Criminal charges as evidence in a wrongful death claim

In some cases, criminal charges may be presented as evidence in support of a wrongful death claim. In a 2015 accident in New Orleans, a 33-year-old woman drove her car directly into the path of an 18-wheeler hauling a large crane. When the truck driver was forced to slam on his brakes, the crane shifted forwards, crushing the cab and killing the driver.

The woman was hospitalized for her injuries. In a drug screen administered during that stay, the woman tested positive for marijuana, and was therefore charged with negligent homicide. Recently, the day her trial was finally set to begin, she pleaded guilty to negligent injuring. While considered to be a lesser charge that negligent homicide, an injuring charge is still a felony with a hefty sentence. In situations such as these where criminal conviction is present, there are often considerations about using the court record to support a wrongful death claim.

In the state of Louisiana, only the spouse or children of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim. If the decedent was unmarried with no children, then the parents may pursue that claim. In the aftermath of a fatal accident, families are often left not only with emotional trauma, but also astronomical medical expenses, unexpected funeral costs, lost income, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. If a negligent driver also received criminal charges stemming from the accident, as in the accident described above, those criminal charges may be presented as evidence in a wrongful death claim.

Even with a criminal conviction, these types of cases can often become quite complex. For this reason, a family who is already emotionally distraught may find comfort in the knowledgeable guidance of an experienced attorney.

Source: NOLA.com, "Driver who tested positive for pot in fatal Lakeshore Drive crash pleads guilty to negligent injuring," Laura McKnight, Sep. 29, 2017

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