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Fatally injured New York teen went unnoticed by elderly driver

A Bronx driver does not have to be a criminal to be negligent or liable for damages. Criminal and civil courts in New York view cases differently. Criminal courts base charges and convictions on evidence of wrong-doing, while civil courts focus on behavior related to a defendant’s duty to safeguard others while driving.

Brooklyn police charged a 78-year-old minivan driver with leaving the scene of a fatal pedestrian accident. The defendant’s lawyer did not deny prosecutors’ claims the woman drove away after briefly getting out of her car at the accident site. The woman stated she did not see a victim or anyone else, returned to the minivan and drove to her nearby home.

A ninth grade Brooklyn Technical High School student died from fatal head and body injuries he suffered in the left-turn collision. The Inquistr reported the 14-year-old male was pronounced dead at a hospital after the victim was struck while crossing the street not far from his home. The driver claimed she believed her minivan had been hit by a ball.

The elderly defendant asserted she probably didn’t see the teen because the accident occurred just after dark, around 5 p.m. The defense lawyer said prosecutors would have to show the retired psychotherapist was aware she hit the boy before leaving to obtain a hit-and-run conviction. A guilty verdict could place the woman behind bars for up to seven years.

There is no guarantee criminal charges will be filed against a driver following a pedestrian accident, even after a collision involving serious injuries or death. Accident victims and their families do not have to wait for citations, charges or convictions to speak with an attorney about filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Criminal evidence can help support a civil action, but the final outcome of a claim for damages does not hinge upon rulings by a criminal court.

Source: New York Daily News, “Brooklyn woman, 78, charged with hit and run that killed teen claims she thought ball struck her car: lawyer” Oren Yaniv, Nov. 21, 2014

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