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What does criminal case dismissal mean for civil claims?

It is one of the realities of the law that every case is different. It is not possible to say with certainty how any matter will play out in the courts of Texas. Though it is possible for an experienced attorney to draw on his or her depth of understanding and skill to offer perspectives on what is likely to occur in a given situation.

Much depends on the details of a given case, which is why it's always important for anyone who wonders if they have a possible personal injury claim to speak with someone who can provide the necessary advice and guidance. Whether you have suffered injuries in an accident or someone you love was killed due to someone else's negligence, the right to seek compensation exists.

Generally speaking, the right to seek recovery for loss is not dependent on the condition of the person responsible. That is, if the person who causes a crash is killed as a result of it, or is deemed incompetent to stand trial for criminal charges in the case for some reason, it doesn't necessarily mean that a civil claim cannot be pursued. It is something that deserves to be explored.

This comes to mind in the wake of a recent court decision out of Montgomery County. A state district judge ordered criminal charges dropped against the man alleged to be responsible for a fatal two-vehicle crash on Interstate 45 in 2012.

A Houston Chronicle report on earlier court proceedings notes that the suspect driver had consumed nearly two cases of beer before driving down the wrong side of the freeway and causing the crash. Three people died and the suspect suffered brain damage that left him with dementia and no memory of the crash.

Based on that, the court agreed to dismiss the criminal case, though prosecutors say charges could be re-filed if the man happens to make a "miraculous recovery."

Civil action often is pursued after criminal cases have been resolved. That's because a conviction can be used to bolster the civil claim. But the latter isn't dependent on such a conviction.

Whether any wrongful death claims have been filed as a result of this case isn't clear from the news reports. But based on what's reported, it would seem that cases could still be made.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed on Dec. 26, 2014

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