After a fatal auto accident, an at-fault driver might be subject to criminal charges. He or she could also face a wrongful death claim in civil court. While the criminal conviction of an at-fault driver can certainly bolster an injured party's civil claim in Montana, a conviction isn't necessary for a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
Recently, the 10-year prison sentence for a Columbia Falls man was suspended after he pleaded guilty to negligent homicide. The criminal charge stemmed from an auto accident in which a motorcyclist was tragically killed. After the accident, a blood sample showed THC in the Columbia Falls man's system, meaning that he had consumed marijuana prior to the crash.
The accident happened on a sunny day back in June 2010, and according to a statement taken by a Montana state trooper, the 34-year-old said that he looked both ways before pulling onto the highway. Still, a violent collision occurred, and the motorcyclist died at the scene.
The car driver was subsequently charged with negligent homicide, and in accordance with a plea agreement, the judge in the case suspended the man's 10-year sentence. His driver's license could also be reinstated if he meets certain requirements, such as keeping his car insurance up to date.
A news report doesn't offer any information about the family members of the deceased motorcyclist or whether they plan to file a claim in civil court. A wrongful death lawsuit can never bring back a lost loved one, but filing such a claim can lead to justice being served.
Source: Daily Inter Lake, "Man gets 10 years suspended for crime," Jesse Davis, March 21, 2013