Money Damages Are Sometimes Only Justice Available
The family of a man and baby who were killed, and a young woman who was injured in an October 2015 car crash at the intersection of State Road 436 and State Road 434 are understandably upset to learn that the Seminole County State Attorney’s office has chosen not to prosecute the 75-year old woman who caused the fatal and tragic crash.
However, justice can still be done for this family.
The prosecutor’s decision highlights the difference between the criminal justice system and the civil justice system, and the differing legal standards and standards of proof that apply to each.
According to an article on the ClickOrlando.com website, Seminole County State Attorney Phil Archer has elected not to press charges against Cynthia Guthrie because he does not believe his office can prove – beyond a reasonable doubt (the criminal law standard of proof) – that Ms. Guthrie is guilty of willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others, or that she acted with reckless disregard. Because the State Attorney is not prosecuting Ms. Guthrie, it means that she does not risk jail time or probation.
However, this does not mean that Ms. Guthrie will avoid all responsibility for the crash.
Under our civil justice system, Ms. Guthrie can still face liability for causing the accident. However, her liability under the civil system is financial (i.e. paying money damages), not the loss of her physical freedom.
In a civil case arising from a car crash, an injured party, or the surviving family member of someone who has been tragically killed, only needs to prove that the driver was negligent in order to win. Not only that, but the injured party does not need to prove his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the injured party only has to prove that it is more likely than not that the driver was negligent or careless.
Obviously, it is much easier to prove a civil case for negligence than a criminal case. This is good because it gives accident victims an effective way of holding negligent or careless drivers accountable – even when the criminal justice system won’t. We do this all of the time for our clients.
If you have any questions following a Florida car accident or wrongful death case, call Winter Park car accident attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901 or visit our main website by clicking here. We are a small, boutique law firm that has recovered millions of dollars for our injured clients. All consultations are free and without obligation.