"Street racing" has been defined as "…" an unsanctioned and illegal form of auto racing that occurs on a public road." These races were once held on relatively isolated stretches of rural roads but, and in part, the success of movies that glorify street racing such as The Fast and the Furious and the television series Street Outlaws has led to a virtual explosion of street racing in urban areas such as Las Vegas, Los Angles, Milwaukee, Houston, andTampa
In today's post the automobile accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will take a look at a recent street racing accident and discuss the potential legal issues that may arise from such an incident. He will then explore the legal options that may be available to the victims of street racers.
How Street Racing Killed a Pedestrian
At around 7:30 p.m. on October 23rd a woman who was crossing a street in southeast Albuquerque paused in the median / turn lane while waiting for traffic to clear. According to witnesses, two cars were traveling "at a high rate of speed" when one car attempted to pass a slower-moving vehicle by moving into the turn lane. That car struck the pedestrian, went out of control, and crashed into an unoccupied ground-level unit of an apartment complex. The pedestrian was killed instantly, while the driver and two passengers of that vehicles suffered critical injuries (later upgraded to "stable") and a fourth passenger escaped with minor injuries (the occupants of the vehicle that crash were later identified as active duty airmen stationed at nearby Kirkland Air Force Base). The other driver involved in the street race fled the scene.
Legal Implications of a Street Racing Accident
Let's look at this accident from two legal perspectives: civil liability and criminal charges.
Obviously, the driver of the crashed vehicle is "at fault" and is thus liable for 1) the pedestrian's death, 2) the injuries to the passengers, and 3) the damage to the apartment building. The driver will probably be facing lawsuits from:
- The pedestrian's family, who could file a wrongful death lawsuit. Given the circumstances of the accident, it is reasonable to assume that a jury would be quite "generous" with its damages awarded if such a lawsuit was successful.
- The apartment owner, who will almost certainly file a lawsuit against the driver (and/or the driver's insurance carrier) to recover the cost of repairs to his property as well as the revenue lost while the apartment was unrentable.
- The injured passengers could file a lawsuit, provided that they are not related to the driver. However, there are several legal issues that would that would seem to affect the likelihood that such lawsuits would be successful.
Street racing, in and of itself, is not a crime in most states and cities. Thus, racers must be prosecuted for traffic violations (e.g. speeding or reckless driving) and/or "reckless endangerment" as defined by each state's criminal code. In most jurisdictions these are misdemeanors and usually result in nothing more than a fine and a steep increase in the guilty driver's auto insurance premium. If, however, a street racer is involved in an accident leading to serious injury or death, the driver could be charged with a felony such as:
- felony reckless endangerment
- criminal negligence
- aggravated assault with a motor vehicle
- involuntary manslaughter
- vehicular homicide
Under New Mexico law, the driver in the case we are discussing is facing a charge of vehicular homicide and, if convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 6 years imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than $5,000. However, if alcohol or drugs were involved the driver could be sentenced to up to 15 years and a fine of up to $15,000.
Again, each state and/or city has its own set of laws that may apply to street racing and the above-mentioned charges may be known by different names.
Why You May Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
In the case discussed above, we have seen how a deliberate (although irrational) decision to engage in what may have been an impromptu "street race" has ended in tragedy. Sadly, this is not the first street race to end in a death and it will not be the last.
If you, or a family member, were injured by a street racer you should contact The Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law firm to discuss the facts of your street racing-related injury and a review of the legal avenues that may be available to you.
Here at The Doan Law Firm, we are ready to assist you in your fight to obtain the best possible settlement of your personal injury case.