Can You Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Tampa After a Manslaughter Charge?
Florida law allows a person to bring a civil wrongful death lawsuit at the same time that a court is prosecuting a defendant for manslaughter.
- the wrongful death case is a civil case
- the manslaughter case would be a criminal case. **
Always speak to an experienced car accident lawyer after an accident that results in serious injury or death.
Wrongful Death: A Civil Case
Wrongful death is a cause of action for a lawsuit that an individual can file after the negligence or wrongful conduct of one person causes the death of another person. Every state has its own wrongful death statute. You can find Florida’s at Florida Statute section 768.16, et seq. The act or failure to act that causes the wrongful death of somebody else can be intentional or unintentional.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action for damages as opposed to criminal prosecution. If a civil court finds a person guilty of causing wrongful death, then the court can’t send them to prison under Florida law. Furthermore, the court may only award money damages.
Manslaughter in Florida: A Criminal Offense
Manslaughter is a criminal offense in Florida pursuant to Florida Statute section 782.07.01. It can be voluntary when the death of a person results from an intentional act. Or, it can be involuntary when the culpable negligence of a person causes the death of someone else. In the case of a motor vehicle accident, an officer may properly charge a person with involuntary manslaughter after a victim dies from their injuries. The crime involves a homicide but not murder. Here’s an example of how that can happen.
A Recent Crash Involving a Manslaughter Charge
A 35-year-old Tampa woman was arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter in March 2020 when she lost control of her vehicle and crashed into the side of another vehicle on Adamo Drive. On her first breath test, her alcohol concentration was .143, while her second test was. .137. Under Florida law, there is a presumption that a person is intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more. The woman was charged at the Hillsborough County Jail and subsequently released on bail.
Florida Statute 316.193 governs DUI manslaughter in the state of Florida. An officer may charge a person accordingly even if his or her blood alcohol concentration was under .08 at the time of an accident, so long as the prosecution can show that he or she was impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any combination thereof. The crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The Burden of Proof in Wrongful Death Cases
A judge may rule out double jeopardy if the burden of proof in a civil case is substantially lower than in a criminal case. When a person gets a criminal charge, then a jury must prove that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. What that means is that the claimant’s version of events is merely more likely true than not true.
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