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Accused of vehicular homicide: What to do next

You were traveling on the highway when it happened. You looked down to take a bite of your burger, and the next thing you knew, you were struggling to get out of your wrecked vehicle. Another vehicle was in the lane next to you, and you struck it when you got distracted.

You didn't intend for anyone to get hurt, but sadly, the victim in the other vehicle did not survive the trip to the hospital. It was an accident, but that doesn't mean that the police and family of the victim won't try to hold you accountable. You're charged with vehicular homicide, which alleges criminally negligent or reckless behavior.

How does Tennessee regard vehicular homicide?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be accused of vehicular homicide due to drinking and driving or because of the reckless use of your vehicle. If you test positive for certain drugs or test above the legal limit for alcohol, you may face a Class B felony. If you commit a vehicular homicide due to recklessness, you'll likely face a Class C felony.

What happens if you're convicted of vehicular homicide?

You should know that a conviction leads to you losing your license for at least three years. It's possible to lose it for up to 10 years. You may also face fines and additional penalties, such as imprisonment, depending on the facts of your case.

What happens in civil court?

If the family of the victim decides to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, then you may face a civil lawsuit to which you will need to respond. You may think that you won't be held liable in a civil lawsuit if you don't get convicted in criminal court, but that's not the reality. It takes less evidence to win a case in a civil court than it does in a criminal court, so you could win your criminal case and still lose your civil case.

In a civil case, the family seeks compensation from you and your auto insurance carrier for costing their loved one his or her life. You'll need a strong defense for both a criminal and civil case if the survivors decide to pursue a claim.

Accidents happen, and not everyone deserves to be treated like a criminal because of one. It's your right to protect yourself against the difficulties that could follow after a vehicular homicide.

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