Tennis superstar Venus Williams may not have engaged in any criminal action when her car struck and killed someone, but that does not mean that she can not be named a defendant in a civil wrongful death case. The distinction can be confusing. Many wrongful death lawsuits can also have a separate but related criminal charge attached to them (think OJ Simpson) but a lot of these suits do not involve behavior that is against a criminal law but rather behavior that can result in civil accountability.
Venus Williams was at fault for a fatal accident that occurred at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida when her car ran and red light and struck another vehicle, killing 78 year old Jerome Benson and injuring his wife. The New York Times reports on the details of the deadly car accident, "Neither driver was suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or being distracted by other factors, according to the police report. Witnesses told investigators that Williams ran a red light just as Barson's car entered the intersection on a green light."
So a death occurred and the police report has Williams at fault for the accident, what now? The daughter of the deceased filed the wrongful death suit and in order to hold Williams legally responsible, her attorney will have to prove the following:
- Liability: The police report is a start but that does not end the investigation when it comes to the wrongful death case. The plaintiff in this case will need to show that not only was Williams responsible for the accident but also that it was the accident that lead to the death of her father. Accident reconstruction specialists, doctors and other experts will likely be used on both sides of this case to prove things one way or another
- Damages: There will always be damages when a wrongful death case is involved and once the requisite negligence elements are successfully argued, the plaintiff can then argue for the range of damages she has suffered as a result of the loss of her father. While the first avenue of recovery in car accident death cases is the insurance policy it is possible to also hold the defendant individually responsible as well.
At this point, all that has been done is the filing of a lawsuit so there is a long way to go and with many celebrities and their legal issues, it is entirely possible that this will be our one and only blog on the topic if Williams decides to reach a confidential settlement with the family. One thing the plaintiff in this case did correctly was she made sure that she was well within the statute of limitations for filing her case. There are very strict filing deadlines when it comes to any personal injury case so while dealing with a legal case is never something someone wants to do following the death of a loved one, miss the deadline and you unfortunately miss the opportunity to recovery much-needed funds. If you are wondering what to do following a deadly car accident, do not hesitate to give us a call today to discuss things further. We are available 24/7.