The relationship between criminal law and civil law in drunk-driving accidents: the criminal justice system cannot provide adequate compensation when you lose a loved one in a fatal car accident.

Unfortunately, people are seriously injured every day in traffic accidents due to other driver’s negligence. Recently, however, two stories remind us that the possibility of being seriously injured, and even killed in a traffic accident is even greater when the driver is operating his or her vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

The first story is of a fatal accident involving Eric Warner, 33, and Emily Brown, 26, of Sunapee New Hampshire. Apparently, Eric Warner was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol and speeding when he crashed into trees on Harding Hill Road. His passenger, Emily Brown was killed during the collision.

The second story is of a fatal accident involving Royal Kinsey, 44 and Jamie Lanager-White, 33 of South Londonderry, Vermont. Police responded to a single vehicle crash and found a truck upside down in the river, both the driver and passenger trapped inside. Jamie Lanager-White, the passenger died at the hospital. Police have determined that the driver had been drinking.

Both drivers in these accidents face criminal charges. Eric Warner is charged with negligent homicide and Royal Kinsey has been charged with manslaughter.

The purpose of criminal law in these situations is to hold the negligent driver responsible. Although the victim’s family may receive some minimal compensation called “restitution,” this would only occur if the Defendant pleads guilty to the charge or is found guilty by a jury. Even then, the restitution will only provide the victim’s families with minimal compensation.

The purpose of civil law, or personal injury law, is to compensate the victim’s family by holding the negligent driver civilly liable, in addition to criminally liable. In a civil tort case, the victim’s family would receive compensation for the harm they have suffered, above and beyond the minimal restitution they may or may not receive following a criminal prosecution.

Van Dorn & Curtiss frequently represents families of car accident victims who are in similar circumstances. If you would like to find out more about these types of accidents, injuries, insurance claims, etc. visit our wrongful death page of our website.


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