The driver who caused a fatal car accident has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. The outcome of that case could influence a potential wrongful death claim against him.
Drunk Driver Causes Crash, Kills Passenger
The accident happened way back on January 31, 2021, just north of Dekalb, Missouri, and south of St. Joseph. The driver, who was 18 years old, lost control of the vehicle. The car went down an embankment and overturned in a creek.
An 18 year old passenger was killed in the crash. The driver was hurt. A 15 year old was also in the vehicle.
No one was wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash.
After the single-vehicle accident, the driver admitted that he had been drinking and driving.
Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Filed
The driver has now been charged with involuntary manslaughter for causing someone’s death while driving under the influence. In Missouri, this is a Class D felony, which carries up to 4 years in prison.
Wrongful Death Claim Can Follow Criminal Charges
Missouri Statute 537.080 lets a victim’s loved ones file a wrongful death claim when the victim died “from any act, conduct, occurrence, transaction, or circumstance which, if death had not ensued, would have entitled” them to compensation through a personal injury claim.
This covers fatalities from car accidents, including those caused by drunk drivers. In fact, wrongful death claims are common after a fatal DUI crash, precisely because criminal charges are usually filed against the drunk driver.
When prosecutors file criminal DUI charges against the driver, the state will investigate the accident and gather evidence of the crime. That evidence will be used to show that the driver was, in fact, under the influence, and that their driving was, in fact, the cause of the victim’s death.
This is exactly what the victim’s loved ones would have to show in a wrongful death case. By waiting for the criminal proceedings to develop, the plaintiffs and their attorneys can let prosecutors build their own case for compensation.
If the DUI case goes to trial and the defendant is found guilty, that verdict can be used in a subsequent civil case for wrongful death. If the DUI defendant pleads guilty to the charges, their admission can also be used against them in the wrongful death claim.
Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office Serve Victims in St. Joseph
Just because it is easier to prove a wrongful death claim after criminal DUI charges have been filed does not mean that it is simple, though. This is especially true when the DUI case takes long enough that the statute of limitations for wrongful death filings begins to approach.
The personal injury and car accident attorneys at the Smith Law Office strive to legally represent victims and their loved ones in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.