A New Mexican man, who pled no contest in 2008 to criminal charges of vehicular homicide and DWI, recently repeated his behavior resulting in a tragic accident which caused the death of a 51-year-old man and injuries to the man’s daughter when his motorcycle collided with their vehicle. The innocent man died instantly. His daughter continues to recover at UNM Hospitals.
The suspect, Jacob Williams, hit another couple on a motorcycle eight years ago. For that offense, he served three years, half of his sentence, after the judge accepted the plea of no contest. One of the unusual coincidences of this accident is that the man who died was the brother of the judge who sentenced him in 2008. There is currently no suggestion or reason to believe that Mr. Williams planned to harm his sentencing judge’s brother as the circumstances of this recent incident appear to show it was an accident.
Now Williams will face new criminal charges for DWI and vehicular homicide. He may also be subject to a civil suit by the family of the deceased man and injured daughter. If the family so decides to bring a wrongful death and personal injury action against Williams, they will seek to use the fact that he confessed that he had been drinking, as well as testimony from the responding police officer that Williams used slurred speech and was unable to complete the mandated sobriety tests which the officer asked him to perform. Accordingly, much of the same type of evidence usable in a criminal prosecution of Williams would be used in the wrongful death and personal injury case. Of course, if Williams does plead guilty in the criminal matter, then there would be no trial in that forum. The biggest distinction between the criminal prosecution and a civil case is that the “beyond a reasonable doubt”standard employed in criminal cases is much harder to meet for the prosecution than the “preponderance of the evidence standard”that a civil litigation would need to meet.
As for the likelihood of bringing a civil case, the first question that would need to be asked is whether Williams had automobile liability insurance. Absent such coverage, a civil suit may not result in the recovery of any monetary compensation because the tortfeasor, although liable may not have any assets. Frequently attorneys for victims of these types of accidents will track the criminal case and coordinate efforts with the prosecutor to gain access to relevant information and to ensure that any steps taken to prepare for civil litigation do not compromise any aspect of the criminal case. Then at the appropriate time, if the plaintiff so desires, the attorney can file a civil action.
The attorneys at the Law Office of George “Dave”Giddens, P.C. represent individuals involved in litigation of various types in New Mexico including personal injury cases. Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at giddenslaw.com.