Car accidents in Houston, the most populated city in Texas, are a common occurrence. Sadly, many of these accidents can be catastrophic and result in death. When this occurs, prosecutors may pursue criminal charges against the party at fault.

In Texas, various laws correspond with accidental death. In any fatal car crash, jail time is a potential consequence, even if the driver at fault had no intention of causing harm.

Car wrecks are traumatic for everyone involved, but understanding the legal consequences you could face if you become involved in a tragic car accident is essential.

Fatal Car Accidents Under Texas Law

Generally, prosecutors will look at the facts and evidence to determine what charges to apply following a fatal car crash. Unlike many states, Texas has no specific statutes that correspond with vehicle-related deaths.

Most fatalities that result from a car accident will involve at least one of the following elements:

  • Manslaughter
  • Reckless driving
  • Criminal negligence
  • Racing
  • Driving with a suspended license

Every car accident is different, and the circumstances will largely determine the charges you’ll face. If you were involved in a fatal car accident, you should be aware of the potential legal consequences.

Criminal Negligence vs. Recklessness

Most criminal charges after a fatal car accident will fall under one of two categories:

  • Criminal negligence
  • Recklessness

Criminal negligence occurs when a driver ignores a preventable measure, and an accident occurs. Under this statute, Texas law recognizes there was no intent to harm or cause a fatality, and the criminal charges may be less severe.

Recklessness is when a driver blatantly ignores a law, acts recklessly, and causes an accident. In other words, recklessness applies when a driver knew their actions were dangerous but proceeded anyway. 

Vehicular Manslaughter 

In Texas, there were roughly 3,896 vehicle-related deaths in 2020

When a driver fails to follow the rules of the road and engages in reckless driving, the consequences can be deadly. You may be charged with manslaughter if any of the following elements exist:

Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Texas. A conviction can come with the following consequences:

  • A minimum state prison sentence of 2 years
  • A maximum state prison sentence of 20 years
  • A maximum of $10,000 in fines

Substantial mitigation and a strategic defense from a criminal defense attorney can help reduce the penalties associated with a manslaughter charge.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Texas law recognizes that accidents happen. If you accidentally caused the death of another individual without engaging in reckless behavior, you may be charged with criminally negligent homicide.

The consequences of this charge are less severe than manslaughter. Penalties include:

  • Minimum jail time of 6 months
  • Maximum jail time of 2 years
  • Maximum of $10,000 fines

The bottom line for criminally negligent homicide is that the court recognizes you did not intend to cause the death of another person. 

Will I Go to Jail If I Cause a Fatal Accident?

The answer largely depends on the circumstances. In any fatal car crash, every detail will be reviewed and held to high legal standards to determine the outcome. 

If you killed someone due to drunk driving or participated in a street race and killed a bystander, jail time is more likely. But if you were involved in an unfortunate accident without acting recklessly, the court may not always impose jail time. 

Nonetheless, if you become involved in a car accident, it’s recommended you stay on the scene, call the authorities, and comply with the investigation. Failure to do so may result in added criminal consequences.

Contact the Houston Car Accident Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help

For more information, contact the Houston car accident law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000.

Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers
3120 Southwest Freeway, Suite 350
Houston, TX 77098
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