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Fatal car accident: guilty in Manassas, wrongful death suit next?

Unfortunately, fatal motor vehicle accidents happen all the time. Some are the result of bad weather or the result of vehicle malfunctions. But others are the result of bad choices or negligent behavior on the part of drivers. Whatever the cause, fatal car accidents can irreparably harm families.

On Oct. 14 a jury in Prince William County Circuit Court in Virginia found a 22-year-old man guilty of involuntary manslaughter and suggested a sentence of 4.5 years' in prison for his involvement in a May 18, 2009, fatal crash in Bristow. The judge can accept the recommendation or suspend all or part of it. The prosecution contends that the man was intoxicated when his Chevrolet pickup truck crashed into a tree and killed his friend riding in the passenger seat. The two men had reportedly been drinking with friends before the accident occurred.

The man's lawyer contended during the trial that there was no evidence to prove that his client was the driver. The defense argued that there was a third person who was driving, but the jury did not find sufficient evidence to support that claim.

The guilty finding in criminal court may open help bolster a civil case for wrongful death that seeks monetary damages from the man. In Virginia, accident victims and their loved ones are entitled to attempt to seek damages for another's negligent conduct. A civil jury may find particularly distressing the fact that the driver in this fatal accident sought to avoid criminal responsibility for his acts by apparently inventing a fictitious driver to somehow excuse his seemingly egregious conduct.

Source: McClatchy Tribune Information Services, "Man guilty of involuntary manslaughter in passenger's death," Oct. 14, 2011

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