Each year, nearly 35,000 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents.
A car accident fatality occurs every 12 minutes. Of the dozens of traffic deaths that occur each day, only a few lead to criminal charges. When a motorist is at-fault for causing a death through reckless or negligent behavior, the motorist may be charged with vehicular manslaughter. However, most traffic deaths are an accident and are categorized as involuntary vehicular manslaughter.
Liability for a Fatal Car Accident
When a driver operates a vehicle under the influence of drugs and causes a car accident that kills someone, the driver can be charged with first-degree involuntary vehicular manslaughter. Depending on the circumstances that led up to the accident, it may be considered a class B or class C felony and may be punishable by up to 5-15 years or 7 years in prison respectively and a fine of up to $5,000. If the person is charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter to the second degree, which is a class D felony, the penalties include up to 4 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For a person to be charged with voluntary vehicular manslaughter, it must be proved that:
- he/she was driving in either a severely negligent or reckless manner, and
- the reckless or negligent driving behavior caused a fatality
The Cause of Fatal Car Accidents
Many fatal car accidents are a result of driver negligence. Common driving behaviors that can lead to a fatal car accident include:
- Intoxicated driving: Driving under the influence is among the most common causes of fatal crashes. An intoxicated driver can be prosecuted even if the driver was below the legal limit for blood alcohol content.
- Distracted driving: Cell phone usage and texting can cause fatal car accidents. In addition, talking to passengers, eating or driving while driving, and engaging in any activity that requires the driver to take their eyes off the road can cause a fatal accident.
- Drowsy driving: While drowsy driving is as dangerous as intoxicated driving, a drowsy driver may not be charged with manslaughter unless it is proved that he or she voluntary slept behind the wheel.
Other causes of fatal car accidents include reckless driving and violating traffic safety regulations. Whether or not it warrants an involuntary manslaughter charge depends on the specific circumstances of the case.
St. Louis Auto Crash Attorney
If someone close to you has been involved in a fatal car accident, speak with a St. Louis auto crash attorney. Call The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. at (314) 361-4242.