Can a Car Accident Be a Crime?

Under certain circumstances, an auto accident may be considered a crime. These situations extend past the typical DUI or hit-and-run scenarios; and can actually become manslaughter, murder of the second degree, or assault/battery.

Civil vs. Criminal Charges

If a person acted legally, reasonably, and with no intent to harm another person, an auto accident, will proceed as a civil charge, as the event was not intentional. Typically resulting in no criminal charges brought against the at-fault driver.

However, a car accident may become a crime if the at-fault driver broke the law, displayed grossly negligent driving behavior, or had a blatant disregard for the safety of others. If the accident resulted in a fatality or permanent injury, the likelihood of the at-fault driver facing criminal charges increases dramatically; the pending charge being vehicular manslaughter, or assault/battery.

Define Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is defined as a “willful and wanton disregard for safety”. Therefore, if a driver displays driving behaviors that a responsible person would consider dangerous, they are driving recklessly.

Define Negligence

The term negligence describes the failure to take proper care in doing something. The level of negligence assigned to the involved parties will depend on several factors, such as: 

  • The Location of the Accident
  • Did the Accident Occur in a Construction or School Zone?
  • What was the Weather Like When the Accident Occurred?
  • What Caused the Driver’s Actions?

Define Gross Negligence

Gross negligence describes any action considered extremely unreasonable. This kind of negligence goes above and beyond reckless driving, especially in the case that a fatality results from the accident. Gross negligence poses a greater risk and a more significant threat of death compared to “regular” negligent behavior.

Examples of Gross Negligence:

  • Driving too Fast for Road Conditions
  • Texting and Driving
  • Tailgating
  • Illegally Passing
  • Intentionally Running Red Lights or Stop Signs
  • Unnecessarily Swerving In and Out of Traffic

What If a Death Occurs?

If reckless or negligent driving behaviors caused a fatality, the at-fault driver may face charges of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular murder. If the defendant can prove they did not have a desire to kill or harm anyone, the resulting fatality will be ruled an accident, and not a crime. However, to prove vehicular murder, the prosecution must prove that the driver acted in a grossly negligent manner; resulting in a fatality. 

What if a Death Doesn’t Occur?

If the prosecution can prove that there was an intent to cause injury, the defendant may still be charged with assault, or battery with an automobile. On occasion, the prosecution may argue that the negligent actions of the defendant (or the at-fault driver) equates having the intent to cause injury. The reason negligent drivers can be charged with assault or battery is that the law recognizes an application of force by one person to another as a potential case of assault or battery. However, in this case, assault or battery charges will not be considered aggravated, as criminal negligence alone is not sufficient to support the severity of this claim.

An Auto Accident Can Also be Considered a Crime if:

  • Hit and Run

After an accident with another vehicle, pedestrian, bicyclist, etc, the driver must stop. Proper protocol after an accident involves both parties exchanging contact information, insurance information, and offering assistance to each other as necessary. Failing to stop after an accident, or failing to properly identify themselves, will cause the driver to face criminal charges and penalties. 

However, the specific charge will depend largely on the circumstances of the accident. Penalties the fleeing driver could face include: increased insurance premiums, felonious arrest, and/or a prison sentence. If the fleeing driver did not realize they hit someone, or something, or were otherwise unaware of the collision, they may not be convicted of a hit-and-run.

  • DUI

It is illegal in every state for a driver to drive while intoxicated or otherwise impaired. A driver who causes serious physical injury or a fatality while intoxicated or otherwise impaired may face severe criminal penalties. These charges may include vehicular assault, criminally negligent homicide, vehicular manslaughter, or murder of the second degree. 

.Were you or someone you know involved in a recent auto accident? Call Auto Accident Care Network now at 801-683-1948 to be connected with a live care advocate. Our team at AACN can connect you to trusted attorneys and doctors to schedule a free legal consultation, a free thirty-minute massage, and a no-cost medical exam!

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