Two men were killed and four others suffered a variety of injuries in a recent car accident at the intersection of Colfax Drive and North Imperial Drive in Austin. According to reports, a 24-year-old man driving a Dodge Ram lost control of his vehicle and struck a Honda Accord, which was carrying a 40-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy.

Neither occupant of the Accord survived the crash. Four other people, including a child, were also injured in the two-vehicle collision. Two of those victims were hospitalized with critical, life-threatening injuries.

The 24-year-old old driver was arrested at the scene, but details related to his arrest have not been released. In addition to potentially facing criminal charges for his role in the fatal Austin car accident, the driver might also face civil liability. The families of the two victims killed in the crash and the victims who were injured, but survived, might consider filing lawsuits to recover monetary damages.

Negligence, Carelessness Can Result in Liability

When you get behind the wheel and drive in Austin, TX, you have a responsibility to do so safely. You have to exercise caution, follow local and state traffic laws, and avoid behavior that’s likely to increase the risk of an accident.

When you fail to exercise a reasonable level of care and someone else gets hurt, you can potentially be financially liable for resulting injuries and harm.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

When accident victims survive their injuries, they can potentially file a personal injury lawsuit. One of the most common grounds for a personal injury lawsuit following a car accident is negligence. Simply put, accident victims have to prove that they got hurt because someone else was negligent. To establish negligence, the victims – or plaintiffs – have to prove:

  • The defendant owed them a duty of care
  • The defendant breached that duty of care in some way, and
  • The plaintiff sustained an injury, and
  • That injury was a result of the defendant’s actions or conduct.

Turning back to the accident discussed above, let’s say that one of the women who was hospitalized after the crash decided to sue the 24-year-old driver. She’d have to prove that she was injured because that 24-year-old was negligent. She might point out that he was speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Either of those behaviors would be considered a breach of the duty of care he owed to her.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of personal injury matter. However, they’re pursued by family members of an accident victim. If, after a fatal car accident, family members sustain certain losses, they can file a claim to recover damages from the person responsible for their loved one’s death. Like other personal injury cases, many wrongful death lawsuits hinge on proving that a defendant was negligent, and therefore responsible for resulting harm.

How Criminal Charges Might Impact Civil Personal Injury Lawsuits

What happens if the 24-year-old is charged with a crime for his role in the fatal accident? Let’s say that police discover that he’d been drinking and is ultimately charged with a DUI. The fact that he’s charged with a crime won’t stop victims from pursuing money with civil lawsuits. However, the civil lawsuits may be stayed – or paused – to allow the defendant to focus his attention on defending criminal charges.

Once the criminal case is resolved – either with a plea, jury verdict, or dropped charges – the related personal injury and/or wrongful death cases can proceed. The criminal case’s outcome won’t necessarily have an impact on how civil cases. However, a guilty verdict can be beneficial in establishing that the defendant was negligent and therefore responsible for the plaintiffs’ injuries.

Could Austin Be Liable For the Fatal Crash?

After the accident, many local Austin residents made it clear that the intersection where the crash occurred is known as one of Austin’s most dangerous corridors. In fact, those who live nearby say accidents happen at this intersection quite frequently. Is Austin at all responsible for this latest crash?

Normally, government agencies are immune from civil lawsuits. That is, unless, the agency or its employees are negligent and contribute to an accident. If the city of Austin knew or should have known about specific hazards or dangerous, but failed to do anything to fix them or warn motorists, it could potentially be on the hook for the consequences of an accident. However, just because a stretch of road is dangerous doesn’t mean the city can be held responsible. There must be some identifiable hazard or failure to take action to fix a problem to establish liability.

For example, accident victims might be able to hold the city accountable if a crash occurred because signals were malfunctioning or the road design was inherently dangerous. However, the city would have to (a) have actual or constructive notice of that and (b) fail to do anything about it.