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Could a car crash be a crime and an accident?

Kevin Roper, a truck driver from Georgia, has been charged with several criminal counts in connection with the accident that injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and killed fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair. The criminal charges beg the question: what is the difference, from a legal standpoint, between an accident and a crime?

Under Arizona law, the difference lies between the burden of proof needed to prove the crime and/or the accident. In order for a person to be convicted of a crime, the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. So, for example, if a person is charged with vehicular assault, the state would have to prove that the person was driving a vehicle recklessly and caused the victim bodily harm.

With a negligence claim, the person injured must prove that offending driver was not using reasonable care, and that such a failure to use such care was the proximate cause of the accident and the subsequent injuries. The standard of proof is the “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that it is more likely than not that the offending driver was negligent. It is essentially a lower threshold of proof compared to the criminal standard.

Of course, a criminal conviction related to the accident could be used as proof of negligence.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen what will come of out the criminal cases in the Tracy Morgan crash. If you have been involved in an accident where criminal charges have been filed, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.

Source: “Was Tracy Morgan crash a crime or accident?” Danny Cevallos, June 10, 2014

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