In Texas, Can a Person Be Found Guilty of A Crime But Not Be Held Liable for Civil Punishment Damages to the Victim?
Written by Greg on September 9, 2014
A recent news report indicated that a 68-year-old woman was charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a man riding a motorcycle in Galveston, Texas. According to reports, the woman is accused of driving on the shoulder of the road when striking the bicyclist.
Further reported, the woman indicated to police that she was looking for an address at the time of the crash. This suggests to me that the accident was clearly that -an accident and the woman did not intend injure anyone.
Nevertheless, the woman faces criminal charges and the outcome of that will determine, to some extent, her immediate future. One question that arises is that in Texas could it be possible to be charged with a crime and possibly found guilty of the same and still not be held accountable civilly to the victim’s family for gross negligence stemming from the same accident?
Can conduct be so anti-society that it raises to the level of a crime in the eyes of some, yet civilly the very same conduct not rise to the level of entitlement to punitive damages for the actual victim? In some situations such as a drunk driving accident, the issue may not be so grey.
That our community may be entitled to punishment of the driver yet, the family of the victim may or may not be entitled to civil punishment damages from the same person for the same conduct.
Case law in Texas has continued to evolve on exemplary damages (also known as punitive damages) and none of the case law has been helpful to the families who have lost a loved one or the personal injury victim. Given the huge legal hurtles for exemplary damage claims in Texas, it is not clear whether or not civil punishment damages would be appropriate in some instances were a crime has been charged for the same conduct.
What are our priorities in Texas when is it possible that a person who was negligent in an accident be found guilty of a crime, but not be held civilly accountable for punitive damages under Texas law?
Focus on this question reflects the need in Texas for reforms for victim’s civil rights within the state.