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Can personal injury liability overlap with criminal charges?

In warm weather months, New Jersey residents can be seen doing outdoor activities like boating, bicycling, and/or motorcycling. Yet even when engaged in those fun activities, individuals owe a duty of care to others around them.

In a recent example, a 23-year-old was arrested after driving an 18-foot Nautilus into another boat on Lake Mohawk on a Sunday afternoon. Although a motor vehicle or boating collision more typically involves personal injury law, the addition of hit-and-run behavior can implicate criminal charges. The boater in this story allegedly fled the scene. 

The rationale for criminalizing hit-and-run behavior is evident: All five of the pontoon passengers were thrown into the water by the impact. Unfortunately, one of the pontoon passengers suffered a concussion. She might have drowned if her twin sister had not helped her to the surface. She was airlifted to a local medical center. Another male occupant also suffered head trauma. The remaining three occupants did not require hospitalization, despite reporting minor injuries.

Although the cause of the crash remains under investigation, local authorities apprehended the boat driver several hours after the incident. Authorities also reported that they observed a hole in the boat’s hull upon inspection.

When criminal law overlaps with personal injury law, it is important to remember that different standards of proof apply. An attorney that focuses on civil negligence lawsuits will understand that distinction. An attorney might also advise that the civil lawsuit be stayed pending the outcome of the criminal case. Although a police report or some of the other evidence in the criminal trial may be inadmissible in the civil trial due to hearsay or other rules, the evidence may nevertheless be useful in uncovering the cause of the crash and investigating for signs of negligence.

Source: nj.com, “Sparta man arrested in Lake Mohawk hit-and-run boating accident,” Dave Hutchinson, June 15, 2015 

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